PROVINCETOWN (CBS) – It’s the day after Memorial Day in Provincetown and Commercial Street is all but empty — best left to the locals.

“Memorial Day weekend would be 300 times busier than the busiest weekend up until that point,” said Rob Anderson, chef and owner of The Canteen.

Anderson says this year’s holiday weekend was far from that. And instead of waking up exhausted after feeding a small army of tourists, he’s concerned the summer ahead will be tough to handle.

People bike down Commercial Street on May 25, 2020 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s the problem. We could have a completely dead summer. On the other hand by the time July comes around maybe restrictions will have lifted. Maybe it’ll swing in the other direction and there will be tons of people that wanna come here,” Anderson said.

Anderson recently penned an op-ed for The Atlantic titled “I’m a Chef in a Seaside Town, I’m Not an Epidemiologist.” In it, he describes the potential challenges of operating under a new normal as state and local officials continue their phased re-opening.

State officials say a restaurant and lodging work group, consisting of 11 industry representatives and municipal leaders, “continues to meet to develop procedures to cope with the unique challenges these industries face.” Under the best circumstances, restaurants and hotels can begin re-opening as early as the second week of June.

“The whole point of it [Provincetown] is that we’re in this congested area together. I don’t know how you do that at six feet distance and we’re all wearing masks, without some level of enforcement or a really clear message to people,” said Anderson.

Commercial Street in Provincetown, May 25, 2020. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Located on the northern tip of the Cape, an estimated 3,000 people live in Provincetown year round. During the summer, its population balloons to over ten times that. Tourists can drive, fly or ferry into town. And businesses like The Canteen rely on that foot traffic to stay open.

“If we’re empty it might be good for health reasons but financially it would be a disaster,” Anderson said. “The businesses out here have to make money for those two months or they don’t make money for the rest of the year.”

Trying to find a balance is Town Manager Robin Craver. She and a re-opening committee have been working on plans, they’ll present to the town’s select board Tuesday night. The proposal will include closing Commercial Street to cars, setting up more sitting areas on green spaces and parking lots and relaxing restrictions to make it easier for businesses to take their operation outside.

Craver says they’ll also train ambassadors to greet tourists and in a friendly manner remind them of town ordinances — like the mandatory use of masks on main thoroughfares between 9am-9pm.

“We’re also looking at what type of mitigation we can use to either allow more or restrict populations which would include parking and access to transportation,” said Craver.

Currently, ferries into Provincetown are not running. Boston Harbor Cruises says it plans to resume service June 29th. Passengers will be required to wear masks and can expect fewer daily trips and limited capacity to adhere to physical distancing.

But as Cape Cod’s most popular destination prepares to re-open, only time will tell if visitors will make the trip.

Anaridis Rodriguez


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