BOSTON — The commonwealth Friday issued guidance for the reopening of hotels and restaurants, an event that could happen as soon as early June.
Lodging establishments will be allowed to reopen to general business when Massachusetts enters Phase 2 of the reopening, provided they adhere to a stringent set of cleaning protocols outlined on Friday.
Restaurants will be allowed to serve diners at outdoor tables only at the outset of Phase 2. Indoor table service will be allowed later in the phase, with restaurants making a number of accommodations, including a minimum of 6 feet between tables.
"This plan was put together with input from a variety of associations, businesses and Massachusetts residents," said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who joined Gov. Charlie Baker in announcing the guidelines. "Public health data and trends between June 1 and June 6 will drive when Phase 2 is able to begin.
"To better prepare Phase 2 businesses for the reopening, today, we are issuing new guidance for restaurants and lodging."
The new rules are organized around four main topics: social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and disinfecting.
For hotels, that means, among other things, "specific instructions on enhanced sanitization protocols between guest visits."
Hotels also will be required to inform guests of the commonwealth's request that anyone entering Massachusetts self-quarantine for 14 days on their arrival.
"In Phase 2, lodging, as I described, is able to open for hotel service," Polito said. "The hotel operator or manager or staff must tell the person who is making the reservation that urges a 14-day quarantine. It is up to the individual customer or consumer to self-comply."
Restaurants will be required to post signage indicating what it is doing to comply with the state's guidance and what customers are expected to do while visiting the establishment.
Restaurant staff will be required to wear face coverings, as will patrons when they are entering the establishment and being shown to their table, traveling from their table to the restroom or exiting the establishment.
"While seated, they don't need to wear their face covering, and they can enjoy the experience of dining, which is what we're trying to achieve in this process," Polito said.
Although none of the Phase 2 activities will be allowed to begin until June 8 at the earliest, Polito said the commonwealth wanted to give people in the hospitality industry time to get ready for the phase whenever it begins.
"Today, we are issuing these workplace safety standards in advance of Phase 2 to give lodging facilities and restaurants time to prepare their operations," she said. "And to do that in adherence to the general workplace safety standards that we previously issued."
Baker said starting restaurant service with outdoor dining and tables spread 6 feet apart makes sense.
"If you can do it outdoors, the ventilation outdoors is obviously a lot better than the ventilation indoors," he said. "It would give people an opportunity to figure out how to work between the tables with respect to the spacing. And we also got a lot of positive feedback from our colleagues in other states who started with outdoor first as a mechanism to create a sort of a walkback into the process of operating indoors as well.
"And it is spring."
Baker said that starting with outdoor dining also will help the industry get past any fears that customers may have about eating out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"That's an easier and simpler way for somebody to reintroduce themselves to dining," Baker said. "In some ways, based on the conversations I've had with fellow governors, that has been, in many ways, one of the reasons to go outdoor first. It creates the possibility for people in a slightly different setting to return to the restaurant or just return to eating out generally."
Also on Friday afternoon, Baker announced that he is allowing the commonwealth's major professional sports teams to reopen their practice facilities.
The move is an important first step on the road to the return of pro sports, though that return is dependent on the decisions made by the teams' respective leagues.
Baker said that the return of those games would be an important step on the road to normalcy in the commonwealth.
"There's just so many times you can actually watch the Patriots beat the Falcons [on tape] or the Celtics beat the Lakers or Bruins beat the Canucks or the Red Sox beat the Yankees or the Cardinals or the Angels," Baker said. "At some point, it's gotta be live. And I think for all of us, live sports and especially pro sports will be a great thing to see again because not only will it be a significant milestone for those of us who are fans, but it will also send a big signal that we've continued to do all the things we need to do to contain and control the virus and keep it in check."
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