Massachusetts bars, restaurants suffer as coronavirus spreads mostly in households

The crackdown on bars and restaurants is pushing proprietors to the brink, with the state’s own COVID-19 infection statistics showing households are where the virus is really spreading.
“Parties in houses are a really bad idea,” said Doug Bacon, who owns eight restaurants and bars in Boston. “I don’t have any clusters. It’s maddening to those of us who see the data.”
Bacon, president of Red Paint Hospitality Group, said he opened his first establishment, The Last Drop in Brighton, in 1990. He’s now focused on managing the health risk so his workers still have jobs.
But, he added, everyone needs to “wear a damn mask” so the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker will lighten up on the harsh regulations that now force booze and food service to end at 9:30 every night and doors to shut by 10 p.m.
“Restaurants and bars have adapted,” Bacon said. “But the government has put very burdensome regulations on us. I get it, we all want people to be safe, but they’ve made a scapegoat out of restaurants.”
The weekly COVID-19 town-by-town and city-by-city report lists the “settings” where virus clusters are being spotted way back on page 35. As of Friday, here’s where the virus had been confirmed:

21,277 cases in “households.”
1,678 in “long term care facilities.”
624 in jails and prisons.
247 in “senior living”
186 in “industrial settings.”
175 in hospitals.
156 in “restaurants and food courts.”
70 at “places of worship.”
39 at “retail and services.”

Add to that “social gatherings” (135) and colleges (142), K-12 schools (116) and shelters (28) and Bacon argues that the fear over bars and restaurants is put into perspective by just studying the data.
Weekly town, city COVID count
Weekly COVID report p. 35
“Why are we destroying an entire industry?” he said, adding restaurants make up 11% of the Massachusetts economy. “We’re being restricted beyond what makes sense.”
Baker’s COVID Response Command Center is also putting it on residents to mask up and keep gatherings capped to help the economy rebound, but it did not address the rules on restaurants.
“The Baker-Polito administration has put in place a series of targeted public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including a strengthened mask order, early closures and a stay at home advisory,” said Command Center spokeswoman Kate Reilly Monday night.
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“All residents have a responsibility to remain vigilant, wear a mask in public, wash your hands, avoid gatherings, and practice social distancing so the commonwealth can continue to fight the virus and keep our schools and economy open,” she added.
The Herald has learned some municipal leaders worry that when the bars break up, people head to someone’s home to congregate.
Bacon said bars and restaurants have got the 6-foot spacing and food and drink safety measures down. They’re experts, he added, in controlling patrons.
Yet, with the state seeing coronavirus cases still climbing above 1,000 a day and more, loosening restrictions could be hampered by the fallout from Thanksgiving.
“I’ve put my life into this,” Bacon said of his eight establishments. “Some of us are seeing our life savings drained — all for less than 1% of infections.”
BOSTON MA. NOVEMBER 30: Doug Bacon, owner of several restaurants, at Hopewell Bar and Kitchen on November 30, 2020 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)BOSTON MA. NOVEMBER 30: Doug Bacon, owner of several restaurants, at Hopewell Bar and Kitchen on November 30, 2020 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)BOSTON MA. NOVEMBER 30: Small businesses closing and retail space for rent on Newbury St. on November 30, 2020 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)CHELSEA, MA. – NOVEMBER 30: A Health Innovations worker tests a patient for COVID-19 out of a shed in Chelsea Square on November 30, 2020 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)CHELSEA, MA. – NOVEMBER 30: A Health Innovations worker tests a patient for COVID-19 out of a shed in Chelsea Square on November 30, 2020 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)Show Caption of Expand

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