By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – Governor Baker is relaxing guidelines to allow restaurants to seat patrons at the bar as long as they are ordering food and maintaining social distancing, and partitions are installed at least 30 inches high. The governor says he has taken his cues from other states which have had success. “We want to help restaurants use space more effectively,” Baker said.

He’s also allowing seating capacity to expand from six to 10 patrons at each table, though Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is not allowing city restaurants to go that far. Walsh announced Wednesday Boston is getting close to becoming a high risk community and needs to be cautious.

It was a surprising setback for Tony C’s sports bar in the Seaport district, but regional manager David Doyle says they’ve become used to it. “We’re still able to bring in larger parties and seat them as close together as possible. It’ll be a few more weeks,” he told WBZ-TV.

But he says the bar is the focal point of the restaurant and calls it a step forward to allow patrons to have seating there. “Especially during football season,” Doyle said. “It’s been a little different to see how it is this year.”

At Davio’s in the Seaport, general manager Armando Dias says it’s a lifeline to bring seating back to the bar. “The bar itself is the heartbeat of the restaurant,” he said. He plans to have partitions installed soon, saying the restaurant group was anticipating the announcement and getting prepared.

He says adding more seating capacity at tables would have helped bring even more business back in. “All of our weddings, rehearsal dinners, and corporate events are gone and don’t exist anymore,” he said. “Increasing to ten guests would allow us to have larger events.”

Installing partitions comes with more cost for the restaurants which have been pushing for additional state or federal help. But relaxing the restrictions can only help the bottom line.

“The bars are the heart of our restaurant and the front of the house. They create the excitement and vibrancy that’s there,” said Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

Beth Germano

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