Customers can belly up to the bar again in Massachusetts restaurants starting Monday, if and only if they plan to eat a meal and not stand around.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday data from other states suggests it will be safe to let restaurants use bars areas to serve food and drink to seated customers, as long as the seats are properly distanced.
"We also want to help restaurants use their spaces more effectively. While bars remain closed in Massachusetts, restaurants with bar seating may now use those spaces for food service with the right distance measures in place," Baker said.
Baker, appearing at a Lowell barbeque restaurant that's received aid from the state and local government, is also expanding the number of customers that can be seated at one table indoors or outdoors from six to ten.
The announcement on bar seating comes as Baker's Stop the Spread program, which focuses testing and outreach in 18 communities at high risk of COVID-19 transmission, will continue through October.
Baker was also asked about his recent endorsement of Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins just prior to the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He defended his decision to film a campaign ad in support of Collins. Baker was asked if his "calculus" was based on which party would have ultimate control of the U.S. Senate next year.
"No, my calculus was based on the fact that I think Susan Collins has been a terrific senator from Maine and a terrific senator for the region," Baker said.
The governor also explained his strategy for filling two seats on the state's highest court. Baker said he's extending the process for finding replacements for both the late Chief Justice Ralph Gants and retiring Associate Justice Barbara Lenk for another three weeks to allow more applicants to come forward.
"I think it's likely that we're going to sort of extend that for a few more weeks to see if there's anybody who wants to apply, who didn't want to apply for the one seat, but might want to apply if there are two," Baker said.
Lenk is scheduled to retire before her 70th birthday in December. Gants died last week after suffering a heart attack.