Gov. Ned Lamont has announced he will lift capacity restrictions for most businesses in Connecticut on March 19.
Restaurants, fitness centers, retail offices, personal services and houses of worship will be allowed to open at 100 percent capacity as long as 6 feet of distance is maintained.
Lamont said at his Thursday coronavirus briefing that the metrics remain in the right place and Connecticut has earned it.
“It feels really good,” he said. “It feels good we are able to do this. It feels good that we have been slowly reopening since May 20, and we really haven’t had to turn back. I hope to God we don’t have to turn back this time.”
The governor said this was not an unanimous decision, and he was met with concerns from health officials.
“But broadly speaking, people understood what we were doing and why we were doing it,” he added. “We are thankful when it comes to masks, in terms of curfew, in terms of social distancing. We are reminding people we are not out of the woods yet."
But some restaurant owners say this change doesn’t really make a difference. Matt Storch, owner of Match and Match Burger and Lobster in Norwalk and Westport, says keeping tables at 6 feet apart means they can’t be at 100 percent capacity.
“It doesn’t help,” he said. “It doesn’t do anything. We are pretty much to our capacity with the 6 feet limitations in place, and that includes the dividers between tables. So it doesn’t do anything for us.”
The Connecticut Restaurant Association, which has lobbied the Lamont administration for months on restrictions and on aid for the hard-hit industry, was more conciliatory.
“Today marks another important step in Connecticut’s nation-leading efforts to defeat COVID-19,” said executive director Scott Dolch. “Throughout the pandemic, Connecticut restaurants have proven that it’s possible to serve customers safely and responsibly.”
The Connecticut Retail Merchants Association also issued a statement welcoming the announcement.
“The state’s revised plan will permit retail business in communities across our state to return closer to normal operations,” said President Tim Phelan. “As we look ahead to welcoming back more of our customers this month, it is important to underscore that Connecticut retailers remain committed to continuing to adhere to state guidelines and protocols.”
Lamont says bars will remain closed and other businesses will still have an 11 p.m. curfew. A statewide mask mandate remains in place.
In addition, the governor will also lift the state’s travel advisory. Out-of-state travelers will no longer need to quarantine or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.