Despite closed hotels and bars, and restaurants and other businesses that can only offer take-out service, the tourists will come, Falmouth Chamber of Commerce President Michael Kasparian said.
He said his office has fielded a flood of calls from potential visitors in the last week.
“Based on the call volume, I think we will see day trippers and also the second homeowners coming down to enjoy their summer home,” he said, noting most of the callers were asking if the beaches are open and whether public restrooms are available. Both will be open by Saturday, May 23.
“I don’t think it will be wildly crowded, but they will head to our beaches, the bike path, go for a hike, order take-out and drive the coast,” he said.
He regards this weekend as an indicator of whether people will abide by the latest social distancing guidelines by Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. His four-phase plan for reopening the state requires everyone over age 2 to wear a mask when social distancing is not possible, until at least Monday, June 8. No groups bigger than 10 people may congregate in one area, and those groups must keep a distance of 12 feet apart from one another while relaxing in the sand or collecting shells.
“That means no beach balls or volleyballs,” he said. “I hope people will adhere to the rules and respect each other’s space.”
The governor’s guidelines keep local hotels, inns, and short-term rentals from operating until at least June 8. Those businesses, along with restaurants and retail shops, fall under phase two of reopening.
Michael Richardi, owner of Falmouth Raw Bar on Falmouth’s Harbor and Soprano’s By the Sea in Falmouth Heights, said he is not sure what to expect this weekend.
“Mother’s Day was good for us, but in general we’re still down 50-60 percent in sales. I can’t predict what this weekend will be like,” he said.
Although patrons can still order take-out food, beer and wine, he said, it is not the same.
“People want to sit down on our decks overlooking the water and have someone make a cocktail for them. Hopefully by the end of June when we’ve hit phase three we can return to some normalcy.”
A Woods Hole restaurateur shares Mr. Richardi’s desire to open up the deck for patrons. With seating directly on Woods Hole Harbor, The Landfall restaurant is a popular tourist spot.
Owner James Estes said the establishment opened a week ago and has been serving fried seafood, chowder, lobster rolls and other Cape Cod staples to take-out patrons using an online system. But he laments his empty deck.
“It’s crazy since people are taking our food and sitting on benches, so why not be able to use our outdoor tables that are 10 feet apart? What’s the difference? It’s too bad we are not allowed to do more, but that’s the way it is,” he said.
He is using the dock at the rear of the restaurant, setting it up this weekend so boaters can call ahead orders and pick them up dockside.
“We’ve got the dock, so we should use it,” he said.
In lieu of serving patrons at their establishments, some restaurants are instead offering take-out cookout kits. Bucatino Restaurant and Wine Bar in North Falmouth and The Quarterdeck Restaurant on Main Street are taking orders for various packages that include the meat and popular cookout sides.
Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium has remained open for take-out during the stay-at-home order, but its manager is unsure what to expect this weekend and is toying with allowing up to five customers in its long and narrow candy and ice cream shop.
“We’ve been erring on the side of caution,” Jeannette Michaud said. “We have young staff and we listened to their parents who felt safer with the doors closed.” However, ice cream in a seaside tourist town is always in demand, so the shop may open so patrons can stroll Main Street or take their treat to a bench in Peg Noonan Park.
Mr. Kasparian said there is a plan forming to use the park, the Main Street library lawn and side streets for outdoor seating that would be shared by the downtown restaurants. The earliest possible date this plan could be put in place is June 8, in accordance with state reopening guidelines.