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Indoor dining to return in New Hampshire, Vermont

  • A masked server delivers lunch to a table at the Nuevo Vallarta Mexican Restaurant in Manchester, N.H., Monday, May 18, 2020. The restaurant, which closed their inside dining area in March due to business restrictions created by the COVID-19 virus outbreak, reopened Monday as New Hampshire restaurants were allowed to serve their customers with outdoor table service. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

The Associated Press
Published: 6/5/2020 9:37:47 PM
Modified: 6/5/2020 9:44:12 PM

Vermont and New Hampshire both will allow a return to indoor restaurant dining — with varying degrees of social distancing — in the coming days.

Restrictions on out-of-staters also are being lifted in both states to allow for more travel and tourism.

In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott on Friday outlined plans to allow indoor dining at restaurants and bars to resume Monday.

Establishments will be allowed to reopen at 25% seating capacity, all parties must remain at least 6 feet apart and reservations will be required

“I know we still have a very long way to go to help our restaurants get back on their feet,” Scott said. “I know they can’t make it on 25% capacity, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”

In New Hampshire, restaurants in the Upper Valley can resume indoor dining June 15, but capacity will be limited in the four southern counties that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, Gov. Chris Sununu said Friday.

After being allowed to serve outdoor diners since May 18, restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor dining as long as tables are spaced 6 feet apart.

Restaurants in Rockingham, Hillsborough, Merrimack and Strafford counties will be limited to 50% capacity, however.

That’s because the vast majority of the state’s COVID-19 cases have occurred there, and because of their proximity to the Massachusetts border.

“By maintaining limitations along the southern tier, it will allow us to better manage and limit the ability of individuals to come over the border to use our restaurants,” Sununu said.

The rules also apply to large, catered events such as wedding receptions, which will be limited to 50% of a venue’s capacity statewide.

Though he joked about banning the Funky Chicken and the Macarena, Sununu said dancing will be permitted.

“We are strongly discouraging it,” he said. “We’re asking folks to be smart about it, but I’m not gonna be the guy in Footloose who says, ‘No dancing in my town.’ ”

Putting out the welcome mat

Sununu and Scott on Friday also eased restrictions on out-of-staters as the summer tourism season enters what is traditionally its busiest period.

Effective immediately, golf courses are not longer restricted to New Hampshire residents, and the minimum break between tee times has been reduced.

Previous rules for outdoor attractions such as mini-golf and canoe rentals also have been expanded to allow the reopening of batting cages, petting zoos, ropes courses and other businesses.

Also, sunbathing, sandcastle building and other stationary activities are now allowed on New Hampshire beaches, Sununu said Friday.

The announcement came four days after beaches had reopened to walking, swimming and other motion-based activity.

Parking remains limited, and groups must stay 6 feet apart from each other.

And Vermont, which at one point in the pandemic was counting out-of-state license plates enter the state, will begin allowing some residents from New York and the other New England states to visit Vermont without quarantining for two weeks. But it is limited to residents from any of 55 counties in the region that have virus infection rates of less than 400 per million residents. (That includes both Grafton and Sullivan counties.)

The new rules will also allow Vermonters to travel to those areas and return without having to quarantine.

The state is also increasing the lodging capacity to 50%, including campgrounds.

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