Due To COVID, Selectmen Consider Extended Winter Restaurant Closures

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Business , COVID-19

Harwich news.

HARWICH — Along with the cold weather, the reality that it may be a tough winter for restaurants is settling in. Facilities for outdoor serving are being shuttered and limited indoor serving capacity could make the usual slow winter even slower.

Town officials are weighing options available to restaurants. One is to allow longer closures. Selectmen last week approved owner Damien Wiseman's request to close the Mooncusser’s Tavern on Sisson Road from Dec. 1 through April 1.

Last week, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission held a seminar for town officials and restaurants to layout guidelines for establishments with liquor licenses. Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers made a presentation to selectmen on the guidelines last week.

Under the guidelines, licensees are able to renew their liquor licenses even if the business is currently closed. Powers said any licensee that is not operating at the start of 2021 does not have to provide liquor liability insurance and workers compensation insurance to the local licensing authority while closed. However, both of those insurances have to be provided once businesses open. Liquor licensees’ renewals were due Nov. 24.

If a restaurant is planning to close for a period of time, owners must notify the licensing authority. There is a provision in the town regulations that states: “Any licensee intending to close its place of business shall notify the authority in writing before such closing and state the reason for the closing.”

Selectman Ed McManus wanted to know if the information provided in the ABCC’s seminar was general guidance or developed to address conditions under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Powers said the provisions relate to the pandemic, adding the ABCC has indicated any decision made on closures because of the pandemic are left for the local licensing authority. The information has been made available to the liquor licensees, he said.

Mooncusser Tavern has a year-round liquor license, but the pandemic restrictions will make staying open through the winter difficult, said Wiseman.

“Our restaurant will not be able to support staying open during those months due to the COVID-19 pandemic without our usual Christmas functions which have been canceled, and with the spikes in cases, we feel that this is the best decision for our restaurant,” he said.

This is the first time in the nine years that he has owned the restaurant that he’s had to request an extended closure, Wiseman said.

Powers said he has not had any additional requests from restaurants for extended closures. Staff has told restaurant owners to notify the town of plans to close and explain the reason. As with Mooncusser’s Tavern, selectmen would then act on the request for an extended closure.