BOSTON (CBS) – When restaurants eventually reopen, it’s likely there will be capacity limits inside. Some owners are now planning to expand outside, whether it’s a parking lot or the street.
For 70 years the Wong family has owned Kowloon in Saugus. The iconic Route 1 landmark was regularly packed with diners before the coronavirus crisis, now it’s takeout only. “Never in my wildest dreams did we ever think that this was gonna happen,” said Bob Wong. “The first two months were great, last year was great, and we thought we were gonna have another great year.”
But with nobody dining in the sprawling restaurant, he’s had to let go of most of the staff. “We had to furlough everybody” Wong said. “We’re hoping, as things turn around, we can start bringing them back.”
Getting things turned around will take some work. Wong believes once they reopen, they’ll be limited to 50% capacity, so he’s hoping to utilize the massive parking lot, surrounding the restaurant. Wong said he’s, “trying to think of things to increase our business because we know we’re going to be limited in capacity inside the restaurant.”
The plan would be to have a “Kowloon car hop” where servers bring food to people at their cars outside. “We would deliver it to them at their car and they could sit outside, bring your lawn chairs,” he said.
The idea is just that, for now. Wong said he would still need approval from the town once the state determines restaurants can reopen. It’s an idea, though, that is also being tossed around in the North End.
Frank DePasquale, who owns seven restaurants including Bricco, is hoping to utilize Hanover Street if there are limits to how many diners can eat inside. “Maybe they’ll give us a percentage of the street for both sides,” said DePasquale, “for the restaurants on Hanover Street, Salem Street,and maybe some side streets.”
DePasquale said allowing restaurants to add just a few tables outside, may be enough to keep them afloat until they can fully reopen. “Don’t forget these restaurants in the North End are small restaurants,” DePasquale says, “the majority of them are 50 seats and under, and to lose 50% of your occupancy might be a major hit to whatever restaurant. Nobody can survive it.”
The plan to use a portion of Hanover Street for dining would likely need to allow room for a fire lane since there’s a fire station on Hanover. DePasquale, who’s also the President of the North End Chamber of Commerce, said he’s been talking with Boston city officials about the plan, and hopes they’ll see the potential benefit when it’s safe to reopen.