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'It's Extremely Frustrating': Boston Restaurant Owners Worry About City's Possible Plan To Pause Indoor Dining

ALLSTON (CBS) – After being closed for three and a half months, Avenue Bar in Allston is somewhat buzzing again.

As coronavirus cases go up by the day in Massachusetts, the city of Boston is mulling plans to pause indoor dining for 14 to 21 days.

Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's top health advisor, said during a virtual roundtable discussion earlier this week about the pandemic that city leaders are looking at "how they might tighten restrictions on some of the reopening efforts."

Possibilities include a pause on indoor dining for a period of two to three weeks, a reduction of indoor gathering capacity to 10 people and a reduction of outdoor gatherings to 25 people. Those who organize gatherings of more than 25 people could be fined.

"It's extremely frustrating," said Avenue Bar owner Doug Bacon.

Bacon owns eight restaurants in the Boston area; three are still closed due to the pandemic. He says a look at the state data shows restaurants are not causing a spike in COVID-19 cases, and he's fighting to keep his doors open.

"Less than 1% of the current new infections is coming from restaurants," Bacon told WBZ-TV. "There are much larger numbers coming from social gatherings, from homes."

But, Brown University's Dr. Ashish Jha believes scaling back indoor gatherings, including at restaurants, is a good idea.

"We're at 1,000 new cases a day, and we're still only in October," Dr. Ashish Jha said. "What we know about the virus is that it spreads when large numbers of people gather indoors, especially if they're not wearing masks. Indoor dining is one of the major culprits of spread, certainly in lots of other states."

Some business owners, like Bacon, say people will just find other ways to get together if their neighborhood restaurants are closed.

"I think the problem could get worse," said Bacon. "All the people who are going out to restaurants are going to invite friends over and ordering in from a take-out restaurant and sitting in a close proximity in their living rooms with no masks or no distancing."

The city's plan to pause indoor dining is not set in stone and is dependent on coronavirus numbers in Boston.

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