Mass. Restaurant Owners Grateful for Increased Capacity Limits on Valentine's Day Weekend

With restaurants in Massachusetts staying open later and operating at 40-percent capacity, some restaurant owners say things are looking up.

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It's Valentine's Day weekend, and business owners in Massachusetts are grateful for the more relaxed COVID restrictions that took effect last Monday.

With no curfew and increased capacity limits, more people can eat at restaurants on a weekend where people come together in the name of love. It's welcome news for restaurant owners who have been dealing with slower sales for months and restriction after restriction.

“To me, every day is Valentine’s Day,” said newlywed Teresa Ortiz. “We’re having great food and there's great music and we've had amazing service and we’re just really happy to have ventured out.”

Venturing out has been a rarity for so many during the pandemic.

“It’s been hard, it’s been hard, trying to find different ways to spend time together,” Ortiz said.

Restaurant owner Sandrine Rossi says tables are sold out all weekend.

“Right before the pandemic people were so scared to go out and I thought that feeling would last but apparently people aren’t that scared anymore. People are going to restaurants,” she said.

Rossi says her French restaurant is perfect for this weekend, representing the city of love.

“We’re the nicest," she said with a laugh. "We love to make people feel love actually. This is the root of our culture in France.”

For some who rely on Valentine's Day for income, business is booming. For others, COVID-19 has made the holiday difficult.

With restaurants staying open later and operating at 40-percent capacity, Mida partner Seth Gerber agrees that things are looking up.

“This feels like a little bit of a resurgence," Gerber said. "I don’t want to call it too early but I think people see the end line with the vaccines. They can see the governor loosening restrictions and starting to encourage dining.“

With more than one million COVID-19 vaccines administered in the commonwealth as of Friday, hope springs eternal.

“I’m very hopeful that we’re coming towards the end of it,” Ortiz said.

For months, people have been cooped up inside of their homes, spending a lot less time going out, but this three-day weekend with Valentine's Day and President's Day is a chance for people to enjoy themselves with lighter COVID restrictions in the Bay State.

This Valentine's Day will look different, but for businesses struggling during the pandemic, it's an important time.

It has some restaurant owners believing things are beginning to turn the corner. And for many couples, this weekend is one worth celebrating.

“Dining out is definitely one of the things that we enjoy and we have been limited because of the pandemic but today we decided to venture out a little earlier than what we would normally eat,” Ortiz said.

“I think we need to be cautiously optimistic but I think we’re slowly starting to rebuild and heading in a good direction," Gerber said.

Americans plan to spend big on love this week, despite the pandemic. Personal finance website WalletHub is forecasting $22 billion in Valentine's Day spending, with the average person spending $165. Nearly four billion dollars will be spent on candy.

Rossi says she feels that many of the COVID fears customers have held the last few months are declining when it comes to eating out. This, even as one virologist warned Friday that reopening indoor dining is "an extraordinarily reckless and premature decision" as new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus spread in the U.S.

According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, indoor dining increases an individual's risk of coronavirus infection. And a study published in November found that ventilation flow inside restaurants can cause aerosols to spread at distances greater than six feet.

Still, some restaurant owners say with the declining number of new coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, residents are feeling more comfortable eating out.

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