Mayor Marty Walsh said Sunday that Boston bars, restaurants, and other food and beverage establishments are now ordered to halve their capacity limits and close to guests by 11 p.m. until further notice, as he declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency in the city.
Establishments will need to remove seats and tables to allow adequate space for social distancing to remain open. And customers will not be allowed to wait in line outside, Walsh said during a City Hall press conference.
The new rules come a day after bars and restaurants across South Boston were packed amid St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, despite calls from city and state officials for the public to practice social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Over a dozen establishments in the neighborhood voluntarily closed for Sunday under an agreement with the city’s Licensing Board.
The new regulations apply to both small venues like coffee shops and large restaurants alike, according to Walsh.
Violations to the measures, which city inspectors and police will enforce, will result in an automatic 30-day shutdown, Walsh said.
Restaurants and eateries that offer take-out service, however, will be exempt from the 11 p.m. mandated closing time, he said.
“We’re working to support our small businesses so if people want to get a meal and go out or get a meal and take out, they’ll be able to do that to keep our service workers employed,” he said.
Officials are also lifting regulations on carry-out service, essentially allowing every restaurant in the city to offer the service whether or not they are licensed to do so, he said.
“We’re encouraging use of delivery service,” Walsh said. “For businesses that currently do not have a delivery service, our Office of Small Business is ready to help.”
Beer gardens are also barred from opening until “this crisis is over,” Walsh said.
“I also have to send a strong message to anyone who is thinking about going out and being in big crowds: This isn’t about you,” he said. “This is about your fellow Bostonians. It’s about your grandmothers and grandparents. It’s about your neighbors who are sick.”
Walsh drew on the story of St. Patrick’s Day to illustrate how a community “survived hardship because of social solidarity.”
“That’s what we need right now: social solidarity,” he said.
Effective immediately until further notice, restaurants, bar rooms and nightclubs are required to reduce capacity by 50%, remove tables and chairs to reflect that reduced capacity, follow the guidelines around social distancing and no lines outside.
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) March 15, 2020
Watch the full press conference: