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Formerly the Newton-Needham Chamber

Here's what our members said about vax mandates

We asked our members this week if they would like to see Newton, Needham, Wellesley and/or Watertown adopt a vaccine mandate for customers and workers at indoor restaurants and bars, indoor fitness centers, and indoor entertainment.
I thought it might be close. It wasn’t.
An overwhelming majority of our 304 email survey respondents (71%) told us they support a mandate like the one established by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Similar policies have also been (or are expected to be) adopted by other Greater Boston municipalities – but so far, not in our four Charles River Chamber communities.
Just under 23% of respondents oppose a vaccine requirement for customers and employees at those specific business segments. 7% were undecided. 

Impact on staffing and sales
Our respondents were more divided when asked whether a vaccine mandate at their workplace would make it harder, or easier, to attract and retain employees.
20% said a vax mandate would make attracting and retaining workers harder; 19% felt it would make it easier; and 22% felt such a rule would mean they might lose some workers and gain others. The rest were either uncertain or said they did not feel the question applied to them or their business.

Finally, respondents were also divided over how a vaccine mandate would impact sales.
28% felt customers would probably take their business elsewhere if required to show proof of vaccination, while 27% felt customers will be more likely to do business with them. The rest were either uncertain or said they did not feel the question applied to them or their business. 

Our email survey was conducted between Jan. 3-5. See the full breakdown here.
What else we heard
 It’s important to note that Wu's plan is limited to certain activities. For example, it includes indoor dining, but not entering a restaurant to pick-up takeout. It also does not include retail.
In our survey comments, many who work in the restaurant and fitness industry indicated support for a vaccine requirements, but shared concerns about tracking and enforcing.
“If and when [a mandate] happens, my day to day will get significantly harder,” wrote the membership director at a local gym. “We have people tell us they'll cancel their memberships and stop coming if we require masks. Others tell us they'll restart their memberships and start coming again if we require masks. Same thing with vaccines. Either way people are often demanding and rude to us about it.”
“It's a very complicated issue, for sure," wrote a restaurant operator. "I believe in people's right to choose what is best for them, at the same time the constant addition of COVID positive to our staff creates problems of its own."
“A vaccine mandate would make it easier for us to require vaccinations without it being our decision," added another restaurateur. “It's difficult to make a controversial decision as a fairly new business, but a mandate would provide a very easy justification for requiring vaccines.”
“Not sure how this will impact our sales but I feel this is the best we can do to protect employees and customers,” said another.
Others suggested the mandate should be uniform -- not just for restaurants, gyms and entertainment -- and be consistent across municipal lines.
“It’s very difficult to have different policies in different towns and businesses.”
“This is an inappropriate overreach and infringement on individual rights to make personal health decisions,” said another.
“How about we start promoting all of the positive, health affirming actions people can take to improve their health status?,” added a different respondent. “Now there’s a crazy idea!”
How our employers are coping with the latest surge
Early last month when our Real Estate Committee was planning today's program featuring local employers discussing return to office plans, we thought the conversation would include efforts to – finally -- bring workers back.
Then, Omicron.
That should make this morning’s 11 a.m. program featuring panelists from four local companies -- Big Belly, HPR, Rockport and Spindrift -- all the more interesting.
Hope you can join us. 
Register here.
Coming and going
  • The Roasted Spoke, a new bike shop specializing in repairs and maintenance has opened at 260 Walnut St. in Newtonville.
  • Watertown resident Vicki Lee Boyajian of Vicki Lee’s bakery in Belmont will turn over her longtime business to chef-partner Jason Reed next year and write a cookbook. The Globe’s Kara Baskin has a nice interview.
  • Hummus v’Hummus from chef Avi Shemtov, who is behind the Chubby Chickpea food truck and Sharon restaurants Simcha and A La Esh, is coming the space next to the Star Market at the Street in Chestnut Hill. (Boston Restaurant Talk).
  • Dolphin Seafood Restaurant in Natick has closed after 27 years in business. A new restaurant 7 South Bottle+Kitchen is expected to open at the location in the spring. (Framingham Source)
Needham offering small business grants
Needham is offering grants up to $10,000 for small businesses to provide assistance to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This new $300,000 program is funded through the town’s ARPA funding. Applications due Jan. 31. Details.
Clarks' Needham move represents a downsizing 
We’re learning more about Clarks America’s plans to relocate from Waltham to Needham.
The Globe’s Jon Chesto reports that the shoe company is "reimagining its office space for a hybrid model of in-person and remote work."
And Catherine Carlock at the BBJ says Clarks is downsizing from a 120,000-square-foot space in Waltham to about 50,000 sf at 140 Kendrick St., formerly PTC's headquarters and now home to IDG and soon Wellington Management.
Coincidentally, I believe both locations were once Polaroid properties (now owned by Boston Properties).
Adam Mexiner, at 128 CRE, told Carlock that the booming life sciences market is driving up competition and prices in the western burbs for traditional suburban office space. 
Northland vows to not do business with Entrata
Newton-based Northland Investment Corp is calling on its peers in the real estate sector to “demand accountably” from the tech company Entrata after its founder Dave Bateman sent an anti-Semitic email to political leaders calling the COVID-19 vaccine a plot to “euthanize the American people,” blaming the effort on “the Jews.”
As a former Entrata customer for nearly a decade, we were shocked by Dave Bateman’s anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories & COVID vaccine misinformation,” Northland wrote in a Tweet yesterday.
“We will no longer consider Entrata for any technology needs & call on our industry peers to join us in demanding accountability.
Bateman has since resigned.
Looking for a COVID self-test kit?  
Need a reason to feel bad about looking for a COVID self-test kit?
“Stop wasting COVID tests, people,” writes Benjamin Mazer at the Atlantic.
"Each unnecessary swab that you consume means one fewer is available for more important purposes—such as diagnosing a symptomatic infection," he adds.
"We don’t want our limited testing supply “tied up by people who just want to know so they can visit their friends or go to the opera,” one expert tells Mazer.
And that's today's Need to Knows, unless you need to know the difference between a rotary and a roundabout.

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