HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — After pushing Phase 3 back, Governor Ned Lamont announced Thursday that the state is slated to enter into the next step of reopening on Oct. 8.
Under Phase 3, indoor capacity at restaurants, personal services like hair salons and barbershops and libraries will increase from 50% to 75%.
Lamont said restaurants will still have to seat guests 6 feet apart. Patrons will still have to wear a mask when entering and leaving the establishment.
“Our restaurants are going to have to work hard to get to 75%, but it does give them a fighting chance,” said Scott Dolch, Executive Director, Connecticut Restaurant Association.
“It has been a challenge on every front,” said the River’s Martha Henny. “First off, we’re trying to figure out what the COVID rules are and keeping up with them and making sure that our staff follows them and the rules we have…Everyone has been saying ‘Thank you for being open.’ They really appreciate what we have done, and that makes it worthwhile.”
Outdoor event venues like amphitheaters and race tracks will increase from 25% capacity to 50%. However, guests must still wear masks and social distance.
Indoor performing arts venues will also be able to open to 50% capacity with masks and distancing.
Officials said private and social events like weddings will be capped at 100 people for indoor (as long as it’s 50% capacity) commercial businesses and 25 at private residences, while outdoor events will be capped at 150.
While wedding planners are happy that more guests are invited, they said it will make it tougher for the venues to police masks wearing and social distancing, especially when there’s alcohol.
“When you’re at a wedding there is constantly a beverage in your hand, and it’s very difficult for you to say, ‘Put your mask on,’ and someone can look at you and say, ‘I have a drink in my hand,'” said Lisa Antonecchia, Creative Concepts by Lisa. “The more drinks they have, the more that rule becomes insanely difficult to uphold, and again, it’s really important that everyone understand that’s a statewide rule. That’s not the venue asking you to do it.”
Bars and nightclubs will remain closed. However, the governor said they could reopen before there’s a vaccine.
“I wouldn’t quite go that far [saying bars will reopen when there’s a vaccine], but look, that’s honestly an area that’s most highly infectious,” he said. “We’ve learned that elsewhere. We’re going to have more testing, more therapies and a vaccine. We’re going to know so much more over the next two months; I think it’s worth waiting a little longer.”
Lamont said he wanted to see how the reopening of schools would impact COVID cases across the state before deciding on moving forward with Phase 3.
“I think maybe I wanted to hold off a few weeks because I wanted to see the impact of schools — and in particular colleges — might make,” Lamont said. “Now, it’s almost a month later, I think we have a pretty good sense of where we’re headed…We got another two weeks until Oct. 8. I think by then we’ll have a pretty good frame of reference to determine if it’s safe to get things open on Oct. 8.”
Following Lamont’s announcement, Dolch made a statewide statement. It read in part:
It’s important to keep in mind that Connecticut returned to limited indoor dining on June 17. That means that for more than three months, customers throughout the state have been dining indoors while Connecticut has held COVID transmission to some of the lowest levels in the country. Connecticut restaurateurs have proven their ability to adapt, follow new rules, and serve customers safely. Today’s news is a recognition of their hard work and commitment to being part of the solution, and a recognition that the state must help a sector that at its peak employed 10% of the state’s workforce.
We want to thank Governor Lamont, Commissioner Lehman, and the rest of their administration for their continued partnership and communication on these issues. Connecticut restaurants will need more help to make it through this difficult time, but the Governor has found ways to keep our industry and others moving ahead of other states, and to do it safely. We look forward to continued work with his administration in the weeks and months ahead.