September 25, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
Brian Houlihan, owner of the Trident Galley & Raw Bar at the Hingham Shipyard, The Parrot in Hull, and three other South Shore restaurants, is among the many independent restaurant owners who recently joined with Massachusetts Restaurants United to make their voices heard at the State House in support of proposed legislation aimed at helping struggling local restaurants stay in business during these challenging economic times.
Stephanie Burke -- who owns Lenny's Hideaway in Cohasset with her husband, Derek -- and Houlihan were among members of MRU who attended a press conference at the State House this week about the proposed bill. They are spearheading the MRU's South Shore effort.
Houlihan and Burke are urging all their friends and others in the restaurant business to get involved, including other Hingham restaurant owners. "We need numbers," he said. "Together we can make a difference."
Now that Fall has arrived, the outdoor dining season will soon come to an end, and with much-reduced inside seating due to state COVID-19 regulations, many restaurant owners who depended on outdoor seating to help fill the gap are wondering how they will survive in the coming months.
But there's hope. The proposed economic aid package includes a Distressed Restaurant Relief Fund that would offer one-time grants to restaurant owners that could be used to cover rent, payroll, insurance, and other expenses.
MRU was created by a group of independent restaurateurs to advocate for the restaurant industry and struggling restaurant owners, including finding solutions to help keep their businesses afloat during COVID-19 and beyond.
"Together we have a bigger voice for all of us, and also for smaller independent restaurants -- Mom and Pop [eateries], pizza shops, and small restaurants such as ones run by immigrants who don't speak English and have been overlooked when it comes COVID-19 grants and loans," Houlihan said.
Now that the number of restaurants involved is growing, "the next step is spreading the word so Gov. Charlie Baker will take us more seriously and listen to our issues. We were all shut down by the government, and we need to get some kind of relief," Houlihan said.
Houlihan also owns Bia Bistro in Cohasset, the Galley Kitchen & Bar in Scituate, and the Tinker's Son in Norwell.
According to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, 20 percent of eateries have closed permanently due to COVID-19 impacts.
Remaining open with face mask and social distancing requirements, and faced with some diners who are hesitant to venture inside a restaurant to enjoy a meal -- even with health and safety protocols in place -- pose additional challenges.
"We're looking for help and relief," Houlihan said.
For further information or to join the MRU, email [email protected].