Business leaders: We need reopening guidance

Three down-Island organizations join forces to provide input for reopening the Cape and Islands economy for summer.

Businesses are looking for guidance from the state on how to reopen the Island for business.

Vineyard business organizations are lobbying the state for a set of reopening guidelines to allow them to open up and operate.

In a joint letter, the Oak Bluffs Association, the Vineyard Haven Business Association, and the Edgartown Board of Trade asked state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross to consider a set of “essential” proposals to be considered when the state develops its reopening guidelines.

The proposals include addressing ferry interruption; allowing brick and mortar stores to open at 50 percent capacity or a percentage determined by the state; an immediate relaxation of curbside pick up on Martha’s Vineyard; access to “clear and consistent” signage for safety guidelines; access to bulk buying personal protective equipment; access to testing materials for towns and businesses; mobile sanitation stations; and allow restaurant requirements to be addressed locally.

“This needs to be along with a clear reopening plan,” one of the proposals states. “It is impossible to think about summer staffing, product management, etc. without a reasonable expectation of time.”

The proposals come as Gov. Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board is working on a set of reopening guidelines for businesses statewide. Baker recently pushed back any reopening of businesses from May 4 to May 18.

The letter from the business associations’ follows closely on the heels of a similar letter sent by the hotel and innkeepers of both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket pleading with the governor’s office for guidance that will help them preserve business on the two Islands, which rely so heavily on the tourism industry.

In addition to the joint letter, Island businesses advocates proposed separate guidelines for retail and restaurant establishments.

The retail guidelines propose employees wear masks or face coverings, sanitize their hands, encourage social distancing, limit interaction with outside visitors, and other protocols. For customer protection, the business groups propose customers wear masks, set a limit on customers inside the shop, have a system in stores to indicate six foot distances, and encourage businesses owners to go above and beyond with their own safety guidelines.

The restaurant guidelines ask for “clear and deliberate” guidance from the state, to allow for the to-go sale of hard alcohol and mixed drinks, the development of grants or allowing restaurants to keep their 6.25 percent meals tax as stimulus, protection from litigation by the public, and employees who claim to be infected at their establishments.

In a group email sent to people on Vineyard FutureWorks list, Christine Todd, executive director of the Oak Bluffs Association, wrote: “The three down Island business associations have been collaborating to have our voices heard. I reached out to Tisbury and Edgartown to work toward establishing a unified voice on this. We’ve had four meetings in the last 10 days. The [executive director] from the Cape chamber, Wendy Northcross, has been asked by Baker’s office to submit recommendations/concerns of the Cape and Islands. We met yesterday to address our major ones and are submitting a letter to her today. She is included in a meeting with the committee established by the governor tomorrow. I believe this may be the first time in the history of the Island the business associations have truly come together to collaborate and present unified messaging. We understand there are issues unique to each town but there are also broader based issues that can and should be addressed Island wide.”


  1. Wouldn’t to-go mixed drinks lead to open container violations? The last thing this island needs is more drinking and driving. Unless the customer is on foot, that bothers me.

    • The Island economy is based on drinking.
      And driving.
      All drinks from a bar are to go, be it in a cup or in your belly.
      At least it won’t be in your belly when you leave the bar.
      Some will bring their drink home.
      Some will not.
      Some people drive drunk.
      Some do not.
      I do not expect that ratio to change.

      • I’m concerned about those that do. Allowing open containers won’t help and was still, last I checked, a civil violation. But I agree, drinking at a bar and driving home is no better. I lost that argument long ago. Few care, especially around here.

  2. I wonder how many businesses can survive with customers and revenues reduced by 50% or more? I just don’t see people lining up six feet apart to wait to enter shops to purchase gifts or souvenirs, and who is going to want to sit in a crowded restaurant on a summer day with other people from off island? I know my personal plans and my family’s plans have changed drastically, including avoiding unnecessary trips to anyplace where we come in close contact with anyone, masks or no masks. Realistically, that is how we must live until we have a vaccine, whether we like it or not.

    • I wonder how many businesses can survive with customers and revenues reduced by 20%.
      My guess is very few, the realestate costs are so high.

  3. This is ludicrous. Many of these businesses were working with thin margins at 100% capacity. Drop that to 50%….Why would they bother to open unless they’re going to double their prices and hope that flies? Meanwhile, if browsing in a shop or going out for a casual meal involves deliberate planning that sucks all the spontaneity out of it and puts you on edge for staying safe, how is that going to affect foot traffic? I imagine it’s going to crater it. Business owners are probably in an understandable state of shock and hoping they can salvage something with these bizarre countermeasures.

  4. The current cataclysm might force us to change our economic/cultural model in very significant and (for some) painful ways.

  5. Yesterday there were 208 deaths in Massachusetts, the 3rd highest daily total since this started. This is not something we can put a date on.

  6. These businesses can open. But who’s going to go into them without a vaccine available? I don’t see a lot of customers wanting to risk illness by lining up at Murdicks for fudge, Backdoor for a donut, Black Dog for a T-shirt or Mad Martha for a cone. The island attracts a large number of at risk tourists — those over 50. They also tend to have plenty of $$$ for discretionary spending. It’s doubtful many of them will be doing much consumerism this summer.

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