By Beth Germano

SALEM (CBS) – For restaurant owner Dave McKillop, Governor Baker’s decision to further reopen businesses in Massachusetts is music to his ears. “This will give people the idea to start to move around and that’s exciting,” said McKillop.

It means a return of live music to his Salem restaurant Rockafellas and more business. “This is a huge lifeline,” McKillop said. “We’ve lost almost two years worth of wedding venue business and that’s a large portion of business.”

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As the vaccine rollout inches forward and COVID rates and hospitalizations decline, Governor Baker says it’s time to loosen restrictions. “We wouldn’t be here making this announcement if I didn’t think we had seen for almost two months now positive trends,” said Baker at a press conference at a Salem restaurant.

Beginning March 1, restaurants will no longer be subject to percentage seating capacity, but tables must remain six feet apart and musical performances are allowed. Indoor performance venues can open with 50 % capacity or a maximum of 500 people. A new phase that begins March 22 means gathering limits for event venues will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 outdoors.

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Dave McKillop will be able to reopen his upstairs function hall. “We have been dormant since March of last year,” he said.

At Ledger restaurant and bar, restrictions have kept the business at only 40% or less. Partitions have guaranteed social distancing but now they can fill more tables. “We should be in a much better position than we are right now,” said owner Matt O’Neil.

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The Governor says if positive trends continue, the state could be in a much different place in three months. “It’s OK to go back to doing some of the things you were doing before,” Baker said.

Beth Germano