PITTSFIELD — Two Berkshire County restaurants temporarily closed this week due to possible coronavirus exposure, days before new state regulations went into effect in an effort to stem a rise in cases.
The rules lower caps on the size of gatherings and limit late-night activities. They became effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
The Methuselah Bar and Lounge on North Street in Pittsfield said Wednesday on social media that it was closing for an undetermined length of time after employees were recently exposed.
“Please note that due to staffs’ recent exposure to Coronavirus, as a precaution, we will be closed until we know it’s safe to get back to work,” the bar said. “Stay Safe everyone!”
Owner Yuki Cohen, also a city councilor, could not be reached for comment Thursday. No further details were immediately released.
Next door in Lenox, Olde Heritage Tavern owner John McNinch closed for two days with the aim of reopening Saturday, after customers reported they received a positive coronavirus test result a day after eating there.
McNinch said he made the decision to close himself, not at the direction of Tri-Town Health, the regional agency that serves Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge.
“We’re awaiting test results from staff members who had contact with the customers,” McNinch said. “We’re doing deep cleaning, as we do every day.” He expressed surprise and disappointment that the customers in question chose to visit his restaurant on Monday and Tuesday, since they must have been waiting for their coronavirus test results.
“They broke the rules, and that put us in a tough spot,” he said. “They knew they had a test pending, they were supposed to be quarantined, but they went out to a restaurant.”
That prompted him to post a message for customers: “We ask for everyone to please follow the rules and guidelines put in place by Governor Baker,” McNinch wrote on Facebook. “If we all follow the state rules, we will all get out of this sooner. If you are not feeling well or are waiting for test results, stay home in quarantine.”
“We do not want anyone to risk the health, safety and livelihood of the people of our community. The best way to support local businesses and the Berkshire County community is by following all regulations, wearing your mask, washing your hands and practicing social distancing,” he said.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s new COVID-19 executive orders require all liquor sales to stop at 9:30 p.m., which is also the time restaurants must end table service. Massachusetts residents are asked to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with some exceptions for essential needs such as grocery shopping and going to work.
A strengthened mask rule requires face coverings to be worn at all times in public, even if social distance from others can be maintained. The cap on the size of residential gatherings was reduced to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.
Dr. Alan Kulberg, chair of the city’s Board of Health, said the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the U.S. “seems to be related to large gatherings and household contact.”
Mayor Linda Tyer has recently asked residents to be diligent with coronavirus containment measures. She said it was likely the recent spate of new Covid infections would push the city into the state’s high-risk category, designated in “red” on the state’s color-coded map.
The map typically updates on Thursdays alongside the state’s weekly community-level risk report, but according to the state Department of Public Health website the town-by-town data won’t be released until Friday.
According to Kulberg, a Halloween party was held in the city “involving a number of young adults” that “was the source of [coronavirus] exposure for some people,” though he could not immediately say how many.
“There were certainly a lot of close contacts,” he said.
As the holidays approach, Kulberg emphasized the need for people to limit gatherings at their homes and apartments to 10 or fewer. He said when guests are over, people should maintain their distance from non-household members, and wear a face covering when they’re not eating.
“We strongly urge people to abide by the limited gathering rule,” he said.