New Hampshire is prohibiting all public gatherings of more than 50 people, as well as ordering all restaurants in the state to serve customers through takeout or delivery only, in the latest moves meant to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The ban on public gatherings and limits on in-person dining will remain in place through at least April 7.
“This action will help slow the spread of this virus in New Hampshire,” wrote Gov. Chris Sununu in a statement. “We do not take this decision lightly. This will be hard, but we are all in this together.”
Sununu says service industry employees--who largely rely on tips and often don’t have paid leave--will qualify for unemployment benefits effective immediately.
The ban on in-person dining will affect more than 67,000 residents who work at restaurants or other facilities in New Hampshire.
“The announcement that all restaurants be limited to takeout, delivery and drive-through will have a significant impact on the industry,” said Mike Somers with the N.H. Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Our greatest concern is our employees, many of whom are hourly, who will be severely affected.”
One way to continue to support local restaurants is to buy gift certificates, said Somers. The purchases provide establishments with an influx of cash in the short term, and can be used at a later date when in-person service resumes.
“I encourage everyone to order takeout or delivery in support of your local restaurant over the next three weeks, and look for the many local restaurants that are running gift card specials,” added Somers.
Some restaurants and cafes in the state were already modifying their menus or transitioning to takeout services in recent days.
That includes The Pearl in Peterborough, which announced earlier today that it is “offering free delivery of our tasty food, as well as continuing to offer our take out option.”
In Lebanon, Lucky’s Coffee Garage also transitioned to takeout only this week, as it works to keep both its customers and employees safe.
In Portsmouth, restaurateur Jay McSharry said he and his team at popular spots including STREET, Luigi’s West End Pizza, Vida Cantina and White Heron will now offer delivery in addition to online ordering.
“Adding the delivery option felt like a service we could offer to help our community as well as keep some of our staff employed and businesses afloat,” said McSharry. “We look forward to reopening our doors to our neighbors, but in the meantime, we're here and we hope they'll think of us.”
The order to shutter in-service dining could be hardest on the state’s growing number of brewpubs and distilleries. Manchester’s To Share Brewing Company announced Monday that it will begin offering takeout and delivery within a ten mile radius.
“We are in unchartered territory,” said To Share co-owner Jenni Share. “It is important for us all to make the ethical decisions necessary to control the impacts of this virus. At the same time, we need to be creative and try new ideas that allow our businesses to bring in revenue to cover costs that still exist.”
“Our hope is to keep people safe and meet their beer needs at the same time,” she added. “We are all in this together.”