BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Thursday that restaurants, gyms and other businesses will be able to increase capacity limits as a result of improving COVID numbers in recent weeks.
Baker announced that restaurants can increase to 40% capacity beginning Monday. Restaurant employees do not count toward capacity limits.
La Siesta restaurant owner Martin Vasquez said it is a big help especially with Valentine's Day coming up. "I'm excited, I'm excited we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Vasquez.
The 90-minute time limit for dining remains in place, as does the six-person maximum per table for indoor dining.
Some business owners said expanded capacity is welcome news, but it might not make a big difference. Because of the changing restrictions, business is unpredictable day to day. "Yesterday we had five tables walk in right off the bat and we had a good flow of to go orders and then today, you know you sit and wait," said Matt White, general manager of The Barking Crab in Boston. "It makes staffing very hard, it makes inventories very hard."
Gyms, stores, arcades, libraries, museums, offices, places of worship, driving ranges and movies theaters can increase from 25% to 40% capacity.
"Vaccines are getting to residents across the state, case rates and hospitalizations are dropping, and people are doing a great job of stopping the spread," Baker said. "We're asking everybody to keep doing the things that have been working."
The state's gathering limit will remain at 10 people for indoor events and 25 outdoors.
"I keep hearing more and more customers coming in who have been vaccinated so I think we're definitely going toward a positive place," said Philip Celeste owner of On Centre in Jamaica Plain. "We definitely feel like sales will go up when we can have a few more people in the store."
Massachusetts remains in Phase 3, Step 1 of its reopening plan.
"Our administration is pleased to see public health data continue to trend in the right direction, allowing us to ease up more restrictions on businesses due to COVID-19," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. "I urge businesses, residents and everyone across the Commonwealth to hang in there. Even as we ease up restrictions, we must continue to be vigilant and careful and do the things that we all know work."
As a result, some businesses will be forced to remain closed, such as trampoline parks.
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