Rollback Is New Blow for Boston Businesses, Already Reeling Without Stimulus

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh admitted he's "gotten some pushback" on stepping back in the Mass. reopening plan, but said it's necessary with hospitalizations on the rise

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Many Massachusetts businesses are wondering how they’ll survive the winter, between the apparent lack of stimulus funding from the federal government and some communities rolling back reopening amid a surge in cases.

Boston's gyms, theaters, museums, indoor entertainment facilities and many others are required to shut down Wednesday as the city and some of its neighbors, like Newton and Brockton, revert to a modified form of Phase 2, Step 2 of the Massachusetts reopening plan.

All are hoping they will be able to re-open in three weeks -- the amount of time Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the rollback would last -- and that government relief comes soon.

Boston is moving back to a modified version of Phase 2, Step 2 of Massachusetts' reopening plan starting Wednesday and staying for at least three weeks, Mayor Marty Walsh announced Monday. Here's what that means:

When Omar Argote, the owner of Mike’s Fitness in Jamaica Plain, heard the news, he couldn't believe it was happening again. He'd already invested in his gym.

"We added more cleaning stations … all of the locker rooms are touchless, the sinks, everything, so we spent a lot of money," Argote said.

He worries about his employees too: "Are they going to come back? When will we reopen?"

Argote has been trying to notify his members as quickly as possible that he will be closed as of Wednesday, and those members aren’t happy.

"Some people don’t drink, they don’t go to bars. This is our getaway," said one member, who gave his name as George. "Liquor stores stay open, retail is staying open, why can’t we work out with the masks on?"

Mayor Marty Walsh announced their decision to step back to Phase 2, Step 2, in order to control the spread of the virus.

Walsh admitted in an interview that he's "gotten some pushback" on stepping back in the Massachusetts reopening plan, but said the move isn't about punishing any particular industry, it's about stopping the concerning rise in coronavirus metrics in Boston.

"It’s about the numbers of infections were seeing in the city of Boston. Quite honestly, it’s about hospitalization," Walsh said.

Indoor dining remains permitted under Phase 2, Step 2, though bar service isn't without special permission.

Ken Oringer, the restaurateur behind Little Donkey, Toro and other local establishments, said he worries about the 15 million people impacted by restaurant restrictions nationwide.

Mayor Marty Walsh announced Thursday the launch of an outdoor dining pilot program for 2021, building on Boston's ongoing commitment to supporting restaurants during COVID-19. Walsh said we saw the benefits that outdoor dining can have in the city's neighborhoods this year -- the city approved more than 550 requests for restaurants in 2020.

And the James Beard award-winning chef said it will only get worse heading into winter -- outdoor dining has been banned on public sidewalks and streets since the start of the month.

"We got no help from the feds, no help from the local government," he said.

Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker have repeatedly called for the federal government to do more to support individuals and small businesses as the pandemic stretches on.

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