With the governor's mandatory early closing hours for some businesses kicking in Friday, the administration updated its rules for restaurants on Thursday making clear that diners served before 9:30 p.m. can finish their food and drinks, but must be off the premises by 10 p.m.
The new guidance stems from the executive order Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed on Monday requiring certain businesses to close between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a strategy to blunt the rise in COVID-19 cases. The order was designed to work hand-in-hand with a stay-at-home advisory instructing people to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Both new guidelines went into effect on Friday.
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Baker said Monday that restaurants would be allowed to continue offering food for take-out service, and the updated guidance for restaurants make that explicit. While restaurants must close to the public after 9:30 p.m., table service customers seated and served before that time can stay at the table until 10 p.m.
No food or beverages can be served to a table after 9:30 p.m., but restaurants can keep employees on premises during the mandatory closing period to provide food and non-alcoholic beverage to take-out or delivery. No alcohol can be served in any capacity during the mandatory closing period, the administration said.
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Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, had been worried that restaurants would have to rush people seated later in the evening, at 8 p.m., to finish before 9:30 p.m.
"Shutting restaurants down early doesn't stop people from gathering," Luz told Bloomberg Baystate Business Hour Monday afternoon, predicting people would gather instead in unregulated environments so "it actually in my mind potentially enhances the opportunity for this type of gathering."