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Barbara and Bill Hyland ordering lunch at Moonlight Diner in Williamstown on Monday, the first day that the state is allowing outdoor dining with a lot of precautions.

Successful Start to Outdoor Service at Williamstown Diner

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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The diner doesn't normally have outside seating. It used a section of parking lot to create some al fresco dining. Right, hand sanitizer next to the outside coffeepots.  
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Cheshire's Barbara and Bill Hyland wasted no time taking advantage of Phase 2 of the commonwealth's reopening from COVID-19 closures.
On Monday morning, they were dining al fresco in the improvised outdoor space at the Moonlight Diner and Grille, where they kicked off table service by opening from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
As they waited for their order to arrive from inside the pink diner, Bill said the couple was happy to have the opportunity to enjoy one of life's little pleasures once again.
"We have done very little takeout," he said. "Thank goodness, we had a full freezer at the house. We've been able to get what food we did making the trip once every two weeks to get to the store and get whatever we needed."
Citing their age and Barbara's use of portable oxygen, the pair said they have been extra cautious throughout the pandemic.
"We weren't taking any chances," Barbara said.
"We're lucky enough we're staying in communication with the family," Bill said. "Our daughter is an EMT paramedic out of North Adams, so she's seen an awful lot. We talk to her on the phone often enough.
"It's wonderful to be able to get out."
As of 9 a.m., the diner had served about a half-dozen parties at the nine tables of various sizes set up in the parking lot between the building and Main Street and partitioned off by yellow "Caution Wet Paint" tape.
On Saturday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that Monday would mark the start of Phase 2 of the commonwealth's reopening plan for non-essential businesses.
Restaurants, which previously had been able to offer delivery or take-out service, can begin providing outdoor table service while following strict protocols. Among the rules: tables must be spaced at least 6 feet apart, parties cannot exceed six people per table, workers are required to wear face coverings and customers must also wear face coverings except when seated at their table.
Moonlight Diner owner Mike Ameen said he has been doing about 20 percent of his usual business during the pandemic. He hopes the switch from take-out to table service will help.
"For the last few months, they've had it only to-go orders, and we're not a to-go kind of place," Ameen said. "Our customers like to sit down, relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
"But in this case, we have our own parking lot out front, and we've been able to take advantage of the opportunity -- if you want to call it that. I feel bad for any business that's not able to reopen. This little reprieve helps."
Ameen said he has been able to offer a full menu throughout the pandemic and has been able to retain his full-time staff as well.
"I used the Payment Protection Program the government came out with," he said. "I had a great experience with Adams Community Bank. I applied the first day, and they got me approved seven days later."
Ameen is concerned that the loss of prime events like Williams College's commencement and reunion weekends and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's Fresh Grass concerts will be drain on the restaurant industry in the area. But he also was heartened by response he got from local residents on Monday.
And when the next part of Phase 2 goes into effect, the Moonlight Diner will be ready.
"Hopefully, we're working toward going in and doing what we used to do," Ameen said. "I think in the beginning, I might keep some of the outside business if I can -- if it's successful.
"Inside, we have a decent sized place, so I can separate 10 or 12 tables that can be shifted around. the plan is to stay as normal as possible."
The Hylands, who are familiar with the Moonlight Diner from the time when their son worked at the restaurant some years ago, were happy to learn that it would be open Monday morning since they were planning to be in neighborhood on other business.
And they have been happy with the way Massachusetts has reacted to the pandemic.
"The way the governor has been running the this COVID response has just been wonderful," Bill Hyland said. "I think we've ball been very cautious. Massachusetts was almost at the forefront of the disease itself hitting in the United States. And we seem to be recovering very nicely from it. We're at the forefront of that, and everyone seems to be social distancing."

Tags: outdoor seating,   restaurants,   

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Mount Greylock Investigating Racist 'Zoom Bomb' at High School

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional School is investigating an incident in which an intruder entered a virtual classroom to target a student with racist audio.
Principal Jacob Schutz and Assistant Principal Colin Shebar notified the school community of the Thursday incident in a campuswide email at 4:56 on Thursday, about four hours after the school acknowledged the incident on its Twitter account.
According to the school's incident report, which was shared in the email, at the end of a high school class, a student lied his or her way into the room and played a song that involved the lyric, "f***k the (n-word)."
The incident report goes on to explain the outreach from school staff to the student targeted and his or her family.
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