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With food-pickup priority zones, viral threat reshapes Pittsfield

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PITTSFIELD — City restaurateurs are optimistic that new curbside food-pickup zones in the downtown will be a much-needed bump for local businesses after the statewide shutdown of dine-in eateries earlier this month.

The city of Pittsfield has created "grab-and-go zones" throughout the city, designed to encourage support of local eateries while countering the spread of COVID-19.

These temporary grab-and-go zones came into effect on Wednesday at 13 city areas with high concentrations of restaurants that also lack loading and unloading space. They're in response to Gov. Charlie Baker's announcement March 15 to suspend dine-in services at restaurants to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The curbside zones are marked with blue and white "Food Pick-Up Priority" signs. The zones can fit two cars and feature free parking.

"Hopefully people notice [the signs]," said Antonio Chavez, a 14-year employee of Pancho's Mexican Restaurant. "We have no problem bringing food outside to cars, and I think this could help with business."

Pancho's, located at 154 North St., has a zone located outside of its doors and has lowered its delivery minimum from $25 to $15 since the statewide shutdown began.

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There is a time limit of 5 minutes in the curbside zones, though, allowing quick customer turnover with social distancing in mind, according to a release from the city.

"We've been sharing [the] zones on social media outlets today and yesterday," said Amanda Bates, of the Lantern Bar and Grill. "We wanted everyone to know this is available for those who don't want to come in. I think it could help; people are worried about coming in and exchanging money."

Located at 455 North St., the Lantern also has a zone located close by.

"We're still offering our full menu, but also using deli containers for different salads and pantry items that you can eat at a later time or pack for the kids," Bates added.

Restaurants offering takeout that are not already near the existing zones are encouraged to call the city at 413-499-9330 between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, to be considered for an additional zone.

"As a community, especially in the [food] industry, everyone has been working so hard to support each other," Bates said. "We're all trying to keep our heads above water and remain positive."

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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