PITTSFIELD — Bars and nightclubs in Massachusetts will remain closed until there is a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus, but starting Monday, restaurants will be permitted to provide bar seating for food service, Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Wednesday.
In the Berkshires, however, another change in the guidance may make a bigger difference: The governor also expanded to 10 the maximum party size allowed at both indoor and outdoor tables, a four-person increase from the previous limit.
"I'm more excited about the rule on parties than [allowing seats] at bar personally," said John McNinch, owner of the Olde Heritage Tavern in Lenox. "We put tables next to the bar and we'll keep it like that because it accommodates bigger groups.
"We prefer to do table service because it looks better and seems like a better fix."
McNinch wasn't the only owner who was excited to see party sizes rise.
"We have a few extra tables we can add in now so people can come in with larger parties, instead of sitting at different tables and splitting up the party," said Luke Marion, owner of Otto's Kitchen and Comfort in Pittsfield. "It may not be a huge deal, but it will bump up the bottom line for winter, which would be nice."
Seating customers at the bar could throw a wrench into the socially distant layouts that have already been established in order to follow the state's restaurant guidelines.
"We can't have any seats at the bar because it would get rid of the 6-foot buffer," Marion said.
Baker leaned on results from other states when updating guidelines.
"Evidence from other states with respect to this issue is clear," Baker said on Wednesday. "Restaurants can use bar seating for regular food service with appropriate distance in place."
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.