“I’m comforted by the fact that we’re outdoors and there’s less confined space.”
With Step 1 of Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan underway in Mass, a lot of attention is suddenly on restaurants now catering to outdoor clientele.
Wanting to check it out myself, I tapped into a few breweries that are able to sling pints and serve food in their patio spaces.
Many establishments not serving food, including breweries and bars, will have to wait until Phase 4 to reopen, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday. Several establishments that offer suds and have established kitchens, though, reopened this week.
I found my way to Cambridge Brewing Co. around noon on Tuesday. We reserved a seat the night before, and let the hostess know about it upon our arrival. With her mask on and no customers inside the brewery itself, she then greeted our party, walked us to our patio table, and handed us paper menus and pre-wrapped silverware.
The first thing we noticed were large black partitions separating our table from the one behind us—you might describe them as cubicle walls. There were precautions everywhere, with the people around us all wearing masks, or at the very least pulling their face coverings down to their necks while drinking and eating. In their part, all of the restaurant’s employees wore uniquely styled masks with black gloves the entire time.
In terms of ordering drinks and food, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. A paper menu blew under our table and my girlfriend’s mask got caught in the wind. She almost mistakenly used it as a napkin. Our fault for not letting them hang at our necks like everyone else.
At one point, we glimpsed a sign on the partition behind us reading, “SCAN TO SEE OUR DRINK MENU.” It featured a large QR code, designed for those wanting to avoid touching the paper menus.
“It’s our first time out,” I told the server.
“Mine too,” he said.
I watched the bar through open windows and could see our server pouring beer from behind the bar—mask and gloves on the whole time. All things considered, my partner described it as “a very relaxed atmosphere.” I agree. Seeing large chalkboards with beers listed on them made me feel like I was still getting the ambiance of a brewery—just no large communal beer or cocktail vessels, at least for the time being.
Unsure of the procedure around indoor bathrooms I asked and was told to keep my mask on the whole time. On my way to the stalls, I noticed that the bar was roped off, while the door that’s normally between the dining room and bathroom area was propped open.
When I returned, I asked my girlfriend how she felt about the experience so far.
“I’m comforted by the fact that we’re outdoors and there’s less confined space,” she said. “I think the commission did a good thing making this outdoor first.”
We asked the waiter about the partitions, how he feels about the reopening, and the night before.
“An absolute mob scene,” he said about the first dinner service.
In terms of the afternoon crowd, “It’s a little nerve racking,” he said, “but this is doable.”
After 10 weeks away from his job at the brewery, our server said he’s mostly “happy to be outside with a purpose.”
Weren’t we all.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
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Jordan is a journalist with 7 News and a past president of Society of Professional Journalists-New England.