Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Uncertainty of Phase 4 and How It Creates a Nightmarish Situation for Certain Bars and Clubs in Massachusetts

photo of pint of beer.
Earlier this week, Phase 2 of the reopening of the Massachusetts economy began, allowing restaurants to open their outdoor areas with those without outdoor sections needing to wait until Step 2 of Phase 2, which begins at an as-of-yet undecided date. As mentioned earlier, bars with kitchens and breweries, wineries, and beer gardens with seated food service are also able to open in Phase 2 as well (outdoor areas can open now and indoor areas in Step 2), but bars without kitchens and nightclubs/dance clubs will have to wait until Phase 4. Since each phase is seen as lasting at least three weeks, that would make it seem that, assuming Phase 3 begins on June 29, Phase 4 could begin on July 20, but it now appears less and less likely that this will be the case--and the start of Phase 4 might actually not happen for a very long time, potentially putting some bars and many clubs in jeopardy.

Based on a discussion with Craig Sandler of the State House News Service and an email sent from a source in the restaurant/bar industry, bars with no food service and clubs could technically not be able to open for months, possibly pushing their openings all the way back into 2021 because, according to a download within the state's website, Phase 4 is expected to happen when "Development of vaccines and / or treatments enable resumption of 'new normal'." Bars had actually been in Phase 3--and are still shown in Phase 3 in this download--but they have since been moved to Phase 4, joining nightclubs and dance clubs.

So what does this mean for those businesses that aren't allowed to reopen until Phase 4? For those bars with no kitchens, the solution could be a simple one in which they apply for a common victualler license which would hopefully be fast-tracked by the cities/towns, and even serving items as simple and basic as sandwiches, pretzels, or mozzarella sticks might be enough to bring them into Phase 2. For at least some nightclubs and dance clubs, however, the situation could be more complicated, as they might not have the setup for food service, which may force them to reconcept their spaces--or simply wait until Phase 4 and hope for a vaccine and/or therapeutic to come soon.

Breweries, wineries, and beer gardens without seated food service seem like they could pivot more easily into food service since most reside in facilities with a lot of space, and because food trucks are enough to bring the businesses into Phase 2 as long as the breweries, wineries, and beer gardens have seated food service, this might not be a difficult problem to solve, depending on how amenable the communities are when it comes to food permits.

It appears that Phase 4 could be modified at some point depending on public health guidance moving forward, but because this is by no means written in stone, bars, clubs, breweries, wineries, and beer gardens probably should assume the worst here and act as needed to try to find a way to move into Phase 2.

[Earlier Articles]
A Bit More Information on the Reopening of Bars, Breweries, and Wineries in Massachusetts
Reopening of Bars in Massachusetts Has Been Pushed Back to Phase 4 -- But What Constitutes a Bar?

by Marc Hurwitz (Also follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston)

[A related post from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): List of Restaurant Closings and Openings in the Boston Area]