Massachusetts restaurant owners frustrated with lack of reopening guidance

SEEKONK, Mass. (WLNE) – Massachusetts restaurant owners are fed up with the lack of guidance from the state on reopening, and some are looking to Rhode Island’s reopening plan to get an idea of what’s to come.

Governor Charlie Baker is expected to outline the state’s four phases of reopening next week, and restauranteurs are hoping to get some information on when they can start to welcome back customers either for outdoor dining or dining in.

“Governor Baker, he’s doing the best he can, but he really doesn’t know, our leaders don’t know.”

George Mihailides owns Eats restaurant in Seekonk. He’s staying afloat with takeout orders and is prepared to allow for outdoor seating if the state allows it. He said every day is a question mark while operating under these circumstances.

“I haven’t really slept well in the last two months. I’m just worried about everything. There’s a lot to worry about,” Mihailides said.

The stay at home advisory in Massachusetts is set to expire on Monday, and there’s been no word yet on whether or not Governor Baker will extend it. Either way, restaurant owners want a plan.

“If they let us reopen, they’re talking us having half our seating… How do we function? It’s just a slow death,” said Greg Esmay, owner of the Old Grist Mill Tavern in Seekonk.

The Grist Mill went from 50 employees to just seven, and have added a farmers market and butcher shop to their services to add revenue.

Esmay has been looking to Rhode Island’s reopening plan to get a sense of what restrictions he should be prepared for.

“Rhode Island hospitality seems pretty good about keeping things up to date a little bit. We’re kinda using it as a guide cause we don’t know what is going to happen,” Esmay said.

He added that a lot needs to be cleared up, like social distancing in a small kitchen.

“The social distancing in our kitchens… I’m not sure how that is going to work. I don’t know if anybody’s seen a commercial kitchen, but they’re not big.”

The Grist Mill has outdoor seating and Esmay said he can open it, but the only guidance he’s seen is an order from the town of Seekonk for employees and customers to wear masks.

“We just don’t know. So yes, it’s outrageously frustrating, but then again I don’t want to be upset with anybody cause I don’t think they know. I don’t think anyone knows what to do.”

More than 100 restaurant owners in Massachusetts sent a letter to Governor Baker’s office, urging him to allow them to partially reopen on Monday, with a full reopening in June.

Governor Baker’s office said there will be no decision until next week.

© WLNE-TV 2020

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