SALEM, MA — Tables of 10 and bellying up to the bar may not be happening in Salem anytime soon after all.
While Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced eased restaurant restrictions in the state that include increasing the maximum at a table increasing from six to 10 people, and allowing bar seating for customers ordering food, Salem is not so sure that's a good idea with Halloween ahead and a recent history of high coronavirus test rates.
The city said on Thursday it may postpone the start of the new capacity guidelines pending a special meeting of the Salem Board of Health on Tuesday. The eased restrictions will go in effect statewide — except for some holdout communities such as Boston and Somerville — on Monday.
Restaurants are advised to maintain current restrictions until the Board of Health makes its decision Tuesday night.
Restaurant owners have been asking for more flexibility when it comes to indoor seating as the outdoor dining season faces the inevitability of colder temperatures in the weeks ahead.
"These are welcome additions to the restaurant reopen guidelines," Steve Clark, Vice President of Governmental, vice president of government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said of Gov. Baker's announcement on Wednesday. "Operators and the MRA have been advocating for these for a while, and we are pleased that they have been formalized today. We hope that these changes will continue to show guests that restaurants are safe places to dine.
"There are four ways to patronize establishments: indoor dining, outdoor dining, take-out and delivery. We encourage guests to patronize restaurants as often as they can. Of course, more help is absolutely still needed in the form of grants, extended PPP and other programs, but for now these changes are welcomed by operators and patrons."
Salem's coronavirus numbers held steady this week with 4.0 cases per 100,000 residents and a 1.1 test-positive rate. The numbers are at or below the state average and placed the city on the cusp of being considered a green "safe" community on the state's interactive coronavirus tracking map.
Salem was a red "hot spot" community back on Aug. 16 with 6.6 cases per 100,00 residents and a 3.9 positive rate.
Restaurant owners with any questions are asked to contact the Salem Health Department at 978-741-1800.
Related Patch Coverage: Salem Mask Zones, Testing Extended As Coronavirus Rates Improve