Danbury businesses hail lighter COVID restrictions as a 'huge step forward toward the new normal'

Photo of Rob Ryser

DANBURY — State plans to end capacity limits in restaurants, stores and more received high scores from the business community on Thursday, not because the easing restrictions are enough alone, but because they’re part of an improving climate in the fight against the coronavirus.

“This announcement from (the state) about lifting restrictions comes on the heels of the mass vaccination site opening in Danbury,” said P.J. Prunty, president and CEO of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, referring a clinic at the Danbury Fair mall preparing to vaccinate 1,000 people daily. “These are all tied together to getting us back to normalcy.”

News late Thursday that Gov. Ned Lamont would end most COVID-19 capacity limits starting March 19, as hospitalizations decrease and the state’s vaccination machine goes into full gear, gave local business owners hope that the worst is over, as the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus crisis approaches.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Douglas Polistena, general manager of the Amber Room Colonnade, who as a big-event caterer has to wait for the state to lift capacity limits for large indoor events. “Easing capacity restrictions at restaurants will help us in the future ease limits on big-events capacity.”

At CityCenter Danbury, a special business district of Main Street merchants, Lamont’s announcement was still being reviewed, said Angela Wong, the group’s executive director.

Under Lamont’s plan, capacity limits will be lifted at restaurants, stores, houses of worship, and museum-like businesses.

Commercial gatherings such as weddings will be limited to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Private parties will be capped at 25 people inside and 100 people outside.

Unchanged under Lamont’s plan will be indoor theaters, which will remain at 50 percent capacity, and bars that serve only drinks, which will remain closed.

The 11 p.m. closing time for events at restaurants, and entertainment venues remains in place.

“The restaurants would like to see that curfew lifted, ultimately, but in reality, this is a positive step in the right direction,” Prunty said. “It’s a huge step forward toward the new normal.”

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342