BOSTON (CBS) — Just as Boston learns more restaurants are falling victim to the pandemic, state officials are doling out the final round of grant money to help set up outdoor dining areas on sidewalks and streets across Massachusetts.
“People feel safer outside, and so we’re hoping to have this space activated well into the winter,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, inside the Olde Main Street Pub, which was one of many grant recipients. It’s called the Shared Streets and Spaces Program. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation put $10 million toward expanding sidewalks into streets to make room for pedestrians, bicyclists, and diners.
But some restaurant owners say it may not be enough to save them.
Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale in Downtown Crossing closed. The Cheers replica bar in Faneuil Hall held an online auction Tuesday to sell memorabilia after it went out of business. There’s a “closed” sign up at The Kinsale Irish Pub and Restaurant in Government Center.
“It kind of broke my heart. Faneuil Hall, and the same type of situation here,” said Gayle Sweeney, a former Kinsale customer. “You feel like family, you know the bartenders, you sit down, you know the people around you.”
Governor Charlie Baker says his administration has tried to help. “More and more people are having meals at home that they used to have in restaurants, and I don’t know if that’s a permanent change or a change that’s just consistent with the way people are dealing with this issue during COVID,” he said at a news conference in Salem Tuesday. “But we’ve worked quite hard and have managed to pass a number of pieces of legislation, specifically designed to help the restaurant industry.”
According to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, there were 16,000 restaurants in the state back on March 1, 2020. Since then, 20% have closed.