The next step of Massachusetts’ reopening plan during the coronavirus pandemic goes into effect Monday, allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining, offices to operate at 50 percent capacity and some personal services, including nail and tanning salons, tattoo parlors and personal training, to reopen.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced the move at a press conference last week, saying downward trends in infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths mean the state can proceed with the second part of Phase 2 of his administration’s four-phase reopening plan. Phase 3, which includes reopening gyms, museums and outdoor camps, has been pushed to at least July 6.
Businesses now allowed to reopen still face restrictions as the state attempts to keep the virus at bay.
Bridgette Barbato, director of studios at Miniluxe, a Newton-based nail salon chain that is reopening for waxing, manicures and other services, says they’ll be servicing fewer people in a more spaced-out environment. Among other changes, patrons will be separated by six feet, a plastic barrier will be placed between nail technicians and clients and everyone will be required to wear a mask. Barbato says the company is ready.
“Focusing on clean is what we were founded on. And it’s really in our DNA, and so this has been something that we feel like we’ve been ready for,” she said. “It’s just been about us really reaching out to public health and medical experts and doing everything that we can to provide the best, cleanest environment for our team and for our clients.”
Barbato said despite the required changes, Miniluxe is excited to reopen, and so are its clients — appointments have been booking up quickly.
For restaurants, reopening means spacing tables six feet apart, limiting party sizes and implementing additional safety measures. Boston restaurateur Chris Coombs says he’s thrilled to finally start offering what he calls a “COVID-friendly dining experience.”
“We’ve spent weeks and weeks and weeks building out protocols,” he said. “We’re excited.”
Doug Bacon, who owns eight bars and restaurants in Boston, says he also thinks this is a step in the right direction, but he hopes restrictions will further ease soon.
“I’m hoping that in a few weeks, the governor will say that we’ve made more progress and we can allow patrons to use the bar for seating. It’s still a little disappointing that we’re not allowed to do that,” he said.
Bars that do not prepare food on-site will be able to open in Phase 3.
Implementing all of these changes requires extra expenses that make it hard for some small businesses to turn a profit.
Bella Luna & The Milky Way in Jamaica Plain is one such business — after 27 years of food, drinks and live music, the restaurant stopped operating on March 16 and will not reopen its doors. Owner Carol Downs said she could not find a way to reopen safely and make ends meet.
“This was a very heartbreaking decision,” she said, explaining that the restaurant’s business model revolved around large social gatherings, and she and the other owners knew the virus would make these unsafe for a long time. “It was the safety and the financial viability of the business. … those are really the two things that led us to where we are now.”
Downs said she is mourning the loss of a business that she worked to cultivate for nearly three decades.
“Our team has experienced the loss of their jobs and their livelihood and their camaraderie,” she said. “I think we created this magical, inclusive, creative space that was very special. And, you know, we’re just so thankful that we were able to do that.”
Senior Digital Producer Emily Judem contributed to this article.