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.”