NEWBURYPORT – Responding to internet-fueled chatter that The Grog would not be reopening for business, owner Bill Nichelmann assured diners that rumors of the iconic Middle Street restaurant’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
“There are Newburyport rumors and this was just the latest one,” Nichelmann said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Mark Iannuccillo, vice president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said the Chamber has been working with Nichelmann to come up with solutions to keep The Grog above water ever since restaurants across the state closed in mid-March to slow the coronavirus.
“That’s great news,” Iannuccillo said. “The Grog is a Newburyport institution, so we’re obviously glad they’re coming back.”
As part of Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to reopen the state’s economy, restaurants were allowed to offer outdoor table service June 8. On Monday, the second part of Phase 2 allowed restaurants to begin limited indoor dining.
Nichelmann said he is tentatively planning on July 3 for the return of indoor lunch and dinner service while adhering to all state mandates for restaurants.
Those mandates include ensuring tables are at least six feet away from other tables and any high foot traffic areas unless physical barriers are installed. Diners may not sit at bars and party size cannot exceed six people.
Other regulations include using disposable utensils or sanitizing them after each use, handing out paper single-use menus or distributing electronic menus via the internet.
With four floors of dining space, Nichelmann doesn’t expect those issues to be a problem.
He said he has invited back all 65 employees who were furloughed when Baker ordered that all restaurants across the state close in mid-March.
“We’re doing our best to keep everyone employed,” Nichelmann said.
As for live music, something The Grog has featured for years in its basement and elsewhere, Nichelmann said that won’t be returning anytime soon.
“Live music is not something we’re concerning ourselves with right now,” he said.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.