New Coronavirus Restrictions Are 'Devastating': Cape Restaurants

Jimmy Bentley

FALMOUTH, MA — Cape Cod restaurant owners and managers say new coronavirus restrictions issued by Gov. Charlie Baker could have dire consequences for their businesses.

On Monday, Baker announced new capacity limits for gatherings and businesses, and starting Saturday, restaurants cannot go over 25 percent capacity for both indoor and outdoor dining. For restaurants that book reservations, staff could be left scrambling to move or even cancel reservations over the holidays to comply with the new capacity rules.

Blue Fins, a high-end sushi restaurant in Falmouth, is among those that will be the hardest hit because the business relies almost solely on reservations. General Manager Michael Hamilton said having the announcement come out Monday was "pretty devastating."

"After reading that about the governor today, panic set in," said General Manager Michael Hamilton. "We now need to move our reservations and might not be able to fit them all."

Hamilton said New Year's Eve and other reservations throughout the holiday week were going to be a last ditch effort to make revenue. He said not having all that business will hurt even more because Blue Fins didn't qualify for federal PPP relief because they just opened in 2020. The relief was only available to established businesses, according to Hamilton.

"We are treading water at this point to basically make sure our staff can survive through next year," Hamilton said. "I feel like restaurants are wearing the brunt of this pandemic. It is easy to blame the smaller places that are open, but it's my opinion the smaller businesses are more capable of keeping people safe with contract tracing and other efforts."

Other restaurant owners like Felis Barreiro, of Alberto’s Ristorante in Hyannis said he anticipated a restriction like this happening.

He said the restaurant booked less holiday reservations in case further restrictions were implemented. Because of that and the fact some customers are afraid to do indoor dining right now, revenue is down 80 percent in December.

"It is affecting New Year's Eve, and I don't know how we're going to do for numbers," Barreiro said. "We normally do 100 Christmas parties this month. We've done three parties of 10, so we haven't really had any parties or functions."

And some eateries will have to rely even more on reservations because of the new capacity restrictions.

David Troutman, who co-owns Scargo Cafe in Dennis, said the restaurant has prided itself on being able to use at least half its dining area for walk-ins. But with the new restrictions limiting capacity, he said walk-in dining could become less popular because the restaurant doesn't have the space to have people wait for a table and ensure proper social distancing.

But Troutman also expects some changes to the restrictions that will provide further clarity on what he can and can't do. Because the restaurant has a heated outdoor deck and more than one dining room, Troutman said he's not sure if different rooms will have their own capacity rules.

"The ruling is still brand new, Troutman said. "Sometimes they (the state) have not taken things into consideration, so there's often a new ruling within 24 hours."

But either way, Troutman expects to have to continue relying on takeout.

"There are still people that haven't come back," he said. "They haven't left their home and done indoor dining. They've been doing nothing but takeout. "We'll just get ready to do a heavier amount of takeout and a little less indoor."

This article originally appeared on the Falmouth Patch