Thursday, May 07, 2020

What will reopening the economy look like in New Hampshire?

Many folks have been watching with a keen eye what it will look like when the economy “reopens”. On April 27 we watched as States like Georgia had some of the stay at home restrictions lifted. What does that mean for New Hampshire and the rest of New England?

The New York Times had an article in April contemplating what the restaurant industry would look like upon a re-open. In the article it looked to China, which is seemingly on the other side of the curve from the United States. There restaurants must keep tables five feet apart and customers’ temperatures are taken at the door. Business is reported to be some 50% of what it was pre-COVID.

In Georgia there was reopening. The State has fared better than some New England states despite having such a large international airport. The government created guidelines on how to reopen the economy. Each business had a list of 39 guidelines to ensure compliance. This consisted of everyone wearing masks to the above mentioned small density inside. Some restaurants, like the famous Waffle House, did act to reopen. Others did not, citing safety or not wanting to be the first.

Around the nation some restaurants do wish to open but want to do so safely. Since the shut down, some restaurants are better equipped for takeout while others have struggled to change their offerings. Anecdotal evidence of restaurants that we spoke with indicates that their gross receipts were about 10% to 20% of their average weekly gross from the same time last year. Many owners were pleased that it kept at least a handful of people employed, but obviously it created huge ripple effects.

Up in New Hampshire there is a reopening task force created by the Governor to explore the same issues that restaurant owners are facing in Georgia. In the same week, as restaurants and other shops were opening up down south, the New Hampshire task force was drafting a document called “Universal Guidelines for All New Hampshire Employers and Employees”. The five page document is an instruction guide for policies that need to be adopted to reopen. As the name suggests it is internal facing and does not contemplate customers as would exist in restaurants, retailers, and some service industries. The task force was writing those policies, and have drafted guidelines for restaurants, state parks, manufacturing and even golf. You can find links to those guidelines here.

It is not just the government that is wrestling with these issues. A Change.Org petition from Manchester has received some high publicity. The concept is to shut down Elm Street to auto traffic, and make it for pedestrians. In the warm summer months restaurants can have more sidewalk space for their tables to create more social distancing. The thought is it will help kick start an otherwise hard hit portion of the economy and their employees.

Presently the pandemic is measured in weeks while the concept of reopening is measured in days. As more time passes the path for restaurants, their employers, employees and landlords will become clearer. 

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