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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Step Inside But Bring A Mask: Indoor Dining, Nail Salons And Other Businesses Reopen

As state data trends show Massachusetts coronavirus cases continue to ebb, businesses that have been closed for over three months are eager to reopen.
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A woman leaves an empty nail salon in South Boston on March 17. (Charles Krupa/AP)
A woman leaves an empty nail salon in South Boston on March 17. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Starting Monday, businesses considered “close contact personal services” — such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, massage therapists and tanning salons — will be allowed to reopen with restrictions. Additionally, restaurants will be allowed to begin serving patrons indoors, provided they comply with state safety guidelines.

The latest reopenings come as the state enters the second step of phase two of its four-phase reopening plan. Baker pointed to positive trends in state coronavirus case data in announcing the new changes on Friday.

Restaurants Resume Limited Indoor Dining

If you decide to dine out this week, you’ll probably notice new precautions restaurants are taking to reduce the potential for spreading the coronavirus. For example, when you sit down, the server, instead of bringing you a big flappy laminated menu, may hand you a paper menu that can be thrown away after. Or the menu might only be posted on the wall.

You may look around and notice that the tables are spaced six feet apart and nobody’s sitting at the bar. And like you, everyone is wearing a face mask, at least until they’ve sat down at their table.

So no, this isn’t “normal” by any stretch, but it’s better than being closed, said Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

“It’s a step we’ve been waiting for for 97 days,” Luz said. “That’s the last time anybody ate inside a Massachusetts restaurant. This is a step in the right direction, but we got a long road to go.”

With many restaurants on the financial brink right now, Luz is encouraging the public not only to dine out, but also to do it more often.

“Remember, Monday to Wednesday is the new Saturday,” he said. “Folks are not commuting into the city to work right now, so it’s a lot easier to go out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights.”

‘Close Contact Personal Services’ Reopen With Restrictions

With unpaid rent and credit card bills mounting, this part of the state’s reopening plan could not come soon enough for Nguyen Tuyet Lan, who manages a nail salon in West Roxbury called Obsession. Her salon is among the group of businesses that the state had previously decided were too risky to include in the first phase of reopening, but which will once again be allowed to welcome in customers.

“We were ready a while ago,” Nguyen said. “I’m happy to go back to work … My customers are so excited. They booked me right after they heard from the governor on the news.”

Despite that, Nguyen said, she had only 12 customers booked in advance for Monday — a far cry from the business she’d do on a normal day.

Nguyen and others who run services requiring close contact with customers will have to make significant changes in order to comply with state safety guidelines.

At Obsession, stations will be spaced further apart; shields will be placed between customers and nail techs; the shop will serve fewer customers, seeing people by appointment only; and everything from chairs to the little bottles of nail polish will be sanitized between customers. In addition to masks and gloves, which nail techs are used to wearing, they will also wear plastic face shields and smocks.

But cleaning supplies during a pandemic come at a price. For instance, four gallons of alcohol used to cost the shop $35, Nguyen said. Now, that costs around $80. With all the money she is spending on safety, she has had to raise her prices.

She’s facing another challenge with employees who have been furloughed during the past few months. “Some of them refuse to go back to work. Some of them are cautious,” worried about whether it is safe, Nguyen said.

Between the added costs of reopening, and the trickle of customers, she doesn’t know when, or if, her business will return to what it was making pre-pandemic.

“We will never live in a normal life,” Nguyen said, “until we find a vaccine. That’s what I pray for.”

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