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Bite Back: Short dispatch from Fields Corner eateries on the lifting of the mask mandate

By Dana Ferrante

July 19, 2021

Since the State lifted COVID restrictions on May 29 and eased the public health emergency on June 15, many eateries have continued to have their staff mask up. Motivations for doing so range, and can reflect personal preferences regarding safety and exposure, the vaccination status of fellow employees, vaccination rates among the community, etc. Businesses in Fields Corner have taken a diversity of approaches, with some businesses requiring customers to mask, others relying on the honor system, while most staff continue to mask up. I checked in with two Fields Corner eateries on their thoughts about masking and the on-going impact of the pandemic on business:

Sam H., who works the reg at Just Thai Kitchen—a newcomer on Dorchester Ave that opened in Magic Wok’s old space—says they’re relying on the “honor system,” allowing customers to make their own decisions re: masking. Their business mostly comes from delivery and takeout, but now with the eased restrictions they’re able to offer a few seats to patrons in the shop. While Sam says he knows masking won’t be around forever, he and other staff are not quite ready to shed their masks and will continue to wear them. A few steps up the block, Thomas F., who has worked at Antonio’s Hi-Fi for four years, says he and other employees will continue to mask and encourage staff and community members to get vaccinated. Like Just Thai, they rely on the honor system when it comes to masking. Acknowledging that COVID has brought hard times to many Dorchester Ave businesses—note: nationwide, 40% of businesses owned by people of color have closed since the start of the pandemic—Thomas expressed his gratitude to the community that kept them busy during the pandemic; the shop never closed, and luckily, never had any cases. Since the lifting of restrictions, Antonio’s has seen an uptick in sales, and customers can now enjoy a slice or pastelitos at new window seating that opens to the street outside. Antonio’s Hi-Fi has a few other renovations in the works, and hopes to open a late-night pizza window in the coming weeks.

As restrictions lift and some sense of so-called ‘normalcy’ returns to eating out in Boston, the continuing presence of plexiglass around registers, masked restaurant employees, and “no mask, no entry signs” seem to suggest a different reality—one where local businesses will continue to do what’s best for them and their community, as they’ve done throughout the pandemic.

-- Dana Ferrante

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