Packard’s to close for winter, citing pandemic

  • Packard’s bar and restaurant is shown Jan. 5, 2017, on Masonic Street in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Packard’s owner Robert McGovern is shown Jan. 5, 2017, in his Northampton bar and restaurant. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Packard’s on Masonic Street STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Packard’s on Masonic Street STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/17/2020 4:41:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As COVID-19 infections rise in Massachusetts amid a nationwide surge in cases, Packard’s bar and restaurant on Masonic Street will be closing its doors until the spring.

Packard’s owner Bob McGovern said Tuesday that the decision to close for the winter was made with the safety of staff and customers in mind. He said that over the years Packard’s had earned the reputation of being “the bar that never closes.” But that was before the first coronavirus wave this spring when a statewide lockdown shut down the Northampton staple. And now, with pandemic-related restrictions already limiting hours of operation, McGovern decided to pull the plug on the winter.

“There’s really no window to take care of your bills there, even with outside dining and to-go, unless you had a to-go business and your food travels well,” McGovern said. “You’re just beating yourself to death trying to keep the doors open.”

The decision will impact eight employees — four cooks and four bartenders — and comes after a “terrible week” last week and deep uncertainty over any future federal aid, McGovern said. People are still afraid to go out, and the cold weather isn’t helping, he added.

“It’s a tough decision, and I hate to be a pessimist but I see this December and January being horrific months for spikes” in COVID-19 cases, he said. “I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good.”

Packard’s is not the only downtown Northampton business to come to that conclusion. On Oct. 18, the frozen yogurt business GoBerry closed for the winter until May 1.

“GoBerry has always chosen to stay open through the harsh New England winters,” the business wrote on its Facebook page. “We delight in serving our die hard fans, and enjoy building community throughout the cold months. This year we have made the difficult decision to close for the winter.”

McGovern said he expects Gov. Charlie Baker to move the state toward another lockdown as cases continue to rise.

The state’s averages of confirmed coronavirus cases, positive tests and hospitalizations have all steadily risen since last month. On Nov. 5, the Republican governor announced a 9:30 p.m. curfew for restaurants and an overnight stay-at-home advisory from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.

“You look around town, and at 9:30 p.m. you walk out on the street and there is nobody,” McGovern said.

McGovern has spoken to several other downtown business owners who said they’re operating on thin margins and are considering similar moves.

“I’ve talked to a couple of them yesterday and today, and they’re saying, ‘We’re right on the edge,’” he said.

The U.S. continues to set records for most daily cases, posting 166,226 new cases on Monday as hospitals across the country are crowded with coronavirus patients.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
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