Updated 5:25 pm
Phase two of the state’s reopening plan will allow the lodging industry to start taking reservations and restaurants to have outdoor dining — an important step for the Island which relies so heavily on visitors for both industries.
Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the new guidance for the restaurant and lodging industries at their daily press conference Friday. While the state’s guidelines are not specific on when exactly phase two will begin, it could start as soon as June 8 as long as public health data is trending in the right direction.
In phase two, the lodging industry, which includes hotels, motels, and short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO, is able to start taking reservations, but the hotel operator must tell the person making the reservation the state’s policy of urging self-quarantining for 14. Polito said it is up to the individual customer to self comply.
“In lodging, operators must inform guests of the commonwealth’s policy urging travelers to self-quarantine from 14 days when arriving from out of state,” Polito said.
The lodging industry must also adhere to strict protocols on enhanced cleaning. Onsite amenities such as restaurants and pools must operate according to the phase two reopening guidelines.
When asked if the state is asking out-of-state visitors to book reservations for a minimum of two weeks and quarantine, Baker said the state’s guidance was consistent with other states in the northeast.
Diane Carr, a partner in the Hob Knob Inn in Edgartown, said the state’s guidelines on self-quarantining were confusing and felt people would interpret the self-quarantine recommendation as a mandatory requirement.
“It’s a very confusing message,” Carr said. “So we’re putting this out here for your safety and our safety, but you don’t really have to follow it if you don’t want to, so why put it out there?”
Carr added she was thankful for getting the checklist and guidelines prior to an official reopening and hoped the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to decrease.
“I feel we’re in a good place to open once they say because we’ve kind of anticipated many of the things they’ve put on here,” she said.
Rob Blood, owner of Lark hotels which operates Summercamp, The Edgartown Inn, The Christopher, The Richard, and The Sydney on the Island as well as several others across the country, said his hotels will follow Massachuestts clear line between what is mandated and what is urged.
“This is a weird way to frame it, but it’s an interesting opportunity for people right now who are Massachusetts residents to come and experience places that are usually crowded in season,” Blood said. “We’ve just shifted our marketing thoughts to staycations, if you’re tired of working from home, come work on the vineyard.”
Harbor View Hotel owner Bernard Chiu told The Times said he had not watched the press conference, but did read through some of the phase two guidelines. He felt the phase two guidelines for lodging were good for the commonwealth. He said keeping people healthy was the number one priority and that all his staff are required to wear masks and gloves.
“I hope that everyone does the same thing to protect ourselves and everybody else,” Chiu said. Chiu was also excited for the chance to safely open the hotel.
“The rest is all up to us to make sure that everyone practices social distancing and does a good job keeping the place clean and healthy,” Chiu said.
As for restaurants, the state has opened the gates for outdoor dining, which will be allowed at the start of phase two, and the permitting process to allow that become a reality will be streamlined, according to Polito. Indoor dining is expected to be allowed later in phase two, but Polito did not specify when that would be.
Dining will have to follow strict guidelines with tables six feet apart and a maximum of six people in dining parties. After each party, tables and chairs must be sanitized. Tables should not be pre-set. Bar seating will not be allowed, but can be “reconstituted” into seating later in phase two.
Restaurants must also immediately shut down for 24 hours in the event of a presumptive or confirmed positive case of COVID-19 form an employee, patron, or vendor. The restaurant would have to be cleaned and disinfected before reopening.
The state is also asking restaurant owners to provide up-to-date safety information and training for staff.
By starting with outdoor dining, Baker said customers and restaurants could ease back into dining out at a restaurant.
“That’s an easier and simpler way for someone to reintroduce themselves to dining,” Baker said. “It creates a possibility for people in a slightly different kind of setting to sort of return to the restaurant or just return to eating out in general.”
Edgartown has already put the wheels in motion to establish outdoor dining in town.
“I’m confident that the restaurants and lodging owners, managers and servers, bartenders and staff, and any others who make up these industries will get back to work, will open up their doors to the places and residents across our commonwealth and be able to offer the things from your places that people love and know so much in their communities and we will do so as safety and as quickly as possible,” Polito said.
Updated with comments from Diane Carr and Rob Blood. — Ed.