‘So Exciting': Mass. Business Owners Thrilled to Welcome Customers Back

“I almost cried when the first guest came in,” said the general manager of Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington

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Massachusetts continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday allowing restaurants across the state to offer outdoor dining as a part of Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker's economic reopening plan.

Restaurants have either been closed down or limited to takeout and delivery orders since mid-March. So, while it's outdoor seating only, and there are restrictions in place, Monday was a big step forward.

"It’s a beautiful evening to be on a patio and get to feel a sense of normalcy again,” said Sarah Cortesio, who was dining Monday at Stillwater in Boston's Financial District, which has taken a big hit during the pandemic.

“Significantly down,” Stillwater chef and owner Sarah Wade said. “Barely making rent down.”

Wade is eager to keep the comfort food coming from the kitchen.

“I woke up this morning like it was the first day of school,” she said. “So exciting to have guests here and it’s full and the phone keeps ringing.”

As with everything else, there are restrictions mandated by the state. Tables have to be placed at least six feet apart; dining is by reservation only; there's no seating at the bar; no groups of over six people are allowed; servers must wear masks and gloves at all times; and menus must be either disposable or cleaned regularly.

“We have sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant,” said Wade.

“This job is never easy,” said Richard Bertin, general manager of Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington. “So it’s just one more hurdle. Obviously we wish they weren’t there but we want to keep people safe and we want to serve people and make money while we’re doing it.”

Bertin says he’s already been able to bring back some of the 60 people he had to let go. It’s been almost three months, and now things are headed in the right direction.

“I almost cried when the first guest came in,” said Bertin.

Indoor seating will come at some point during the second step of Phase 2, which will most likely be in the next three weeks, but no date has been set. 

“We were getting cabin fever and it’s so great to feel sunshine,” said Tuscan Kitchen customer Izzie Mooney of Westford.

On Monday, Phase 2 began in Massachusetts, allowing among other things restaurants to open for outdoor dining. From disposable menus to sitting six feet apart, businesses are taking necessary precautions.

Retail stores were also able to welcome customers back Monday as part of the cautious phase.

While it wasn't exactly a shopping frenzy Monday on Boston's Newbury Street where many businesses are still closed, those who did open had a different look as they try to make up for lost time.

Betsey Jenney reopened her shop Monday after months of being closed.

"I was so excited I couldn't sleep last night," she said. 

While the same high fashion was hanging inside her store, it was hard to miss the enhanced COVID-19 related safety measures, from the hand sanitizer around the store to the fact that only three people are allowed inside at a time.

Elsewhere at Flair Boston, customers were allowed to browse but they couldn't try on any wedding dresses.

Some businesses have decided to delay reopening, at least for now.

But Jenney says she is determined to make the new rules work. After 35 years on Newbury Street, she is not ready to close up shop.

"I'm going to keep going, keep working at it, and it will be alright," she said.

Jenney says she had four customers come in Monday, but after months of being closed, she says it felt great.

The news isn't good for everyone, though. Jon Hurst with the Retailers Association of Massachusetts says that 30-percent of the group's membership face the real threat of not reopening at all.

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