Local restaurants struggle with new regulations and lack of college students

Diky+Melville%2C+general+manager+of+The+Fourth+Wall%2C+said+the+business+will+suffer+greatly+with+students+leaving+at+the+preventative+measures+set+by+Gov.+Charlie+Baker

Photo: Jakob Menendez

Diky Melville, general manager of The Fourth Wall, said the business will suffer greatly with students leaving at the preventative measures set by Gov. Charlie Baker

By Stephanie Purifoy, Managing Editor: Digital

Local businesses are reeling after Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin Walsh laid out a sweeping set of regulations over the weekend that prohibits restaurants from serving food and alcohol in-house and restricts operating hours.

Baker announced the regulations in a press conference Sunday that prohibit establishments from serving food to people in-house—restricting them to only take-out food—and banning all gatherings over 25 people. Walsh’s regulations mandated that all restaurants, bars, and clubs must close by 11 p.m.

Only two days before these announcements, Emerson asked all students to vacate on-campus housing by March 20.

Katherine Mantia, a veteran employee of Maria’s Taqueria on Tremont Street, said she found out about Emerson’s announcement when her father, one of the owners of the restaurant, told her after a shift.

The developments have devastated their business, she said, estimating that at least 50 percent of their customers are Emerson students who will largely be gone within the week. She said they plan to push their to-go orders through delivery services. They have also cut back on how many staff members work at a time, in an attempt to both save money and ensure cleanliness. 

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“We’re just taking it day by day because everything’s changing so fast,” she said in an interview. “We keep checking the news to make sure we’re still allowed to be open. As long as we can serve food, we will by any means.”

This all comes after the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in Boston over the past week. Cases have expanded to 197 as of Monday, rising 33 from Sunday. Fourteen people have been hospitalized but none have died. Most colleges and universities in the state and around the country have shifted classes online and sent their students home in an attempt to slow the virus’s progress. 

Diky Melville, general manager at The Fourth Wall, said they would have to shut down the bar portion of their establishment and shift only to doing takeout orders from the kitchen.

“This is a small, family-owned business that’s not backed by a corporation,” he said, “We’ve never had to deal with anything like this. How do we come out the other side of this? I don’t really know.”

Mellville said the rapid pace of developments have left him and his staff scrambling. 

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“It was devastating to hear, such a change of pace,” he said while pouring a draft beer for a customer at the bar. “I’m trying to be optimistic that these drastic measures will keep everyone better and we can get back to normal as soon as possible.”

Boston resident Gary Garner said he has lived on Stuart Street for four and a half years and goes to either The Fourth Wall or The Tam four nights a week to drink and hang out  with friends. He said last night he started crying while at the bar.

“People may not realize it but when you see people every day, you get to know them,” he said. “The bartenders and the regulars here do become like family. . .These are my friends and their income is gone. Many of [the regulars] are salaried individuals who are still going to get a paycheck but these guys won’t. It’s scary.”