By: Bob Sanders, New Hampshire Business Review
New Hampshire’s lodging industry should be allowed to reopen for Memorial Day weekend, though the ultimate decision rests with the governor, with the advice of public health officials, the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force recommended on Tuesday.
The task force, meeting remotely, also passed guidelines to allow fitness centers, many outdoor attractions, audience-free arts performances, massage therapists and equestrian facilities to open, all without a recommended date.
The votes – taken the day that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned a U.S. Senate panel that reopening the U.S. economy too quickly could lead to avoidable “suffering and death“ – were all unanimous, with no debate, although there some discussion about some of the details in many of the guidelines the previous day.
The task force recommended that lodging establishments, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short-term rentals and cabins – be reopened on Friday, May 22. That would be four days after restaurants reopen for outdoor seating on May 18, which would be a week after the May 11 opening of retail stores and golf courses.
D.J. Bettencourt, the governor’s policy director who has been chairing the task force, said Gov. Chris Sununu could decide on some reopening dates before deciding what to do about the state’s general stay-at-home order, which expires on May 31.
The shutdown of the hospitality industry due to the coronavirus pandemic has cost the state 40,000 jobs since the middle of March. The industry has lost $830 million in sales, which also means about $80 million in rooms and meals tax, said Mike Somers, CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association. The losses will only accelerate during the summer, he said, which is the industries peak season.
Somers is hoping that restaurants can go to “phase 2,” which would allow indoor seating, as soon as June. He added that 40% of restaurants don’t have the space to have outside service.
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