Pandemic raises concerns for new businesses

  • Athol Town Hall.

For Athol Daily News
Published: 5/26/2020 2:35:55 PM
Modified: 5/26/2020 2:35:52 PM

ATHOL – It seems nothing is easy in this age of the coronavirus pandemic. Getting a license to operate an ice cream used to be a fairly simple task. Now, however, the proposal raises a number of concerns from those responsible for giving such a business the go-ahead.

Nancy Tessier of Gardner fielded a number of questions from the Selectboard last week regarding her plans to operate an ice cream truck in Athol.

“I don’t know how long all of you have been on the board,” said Tessier, “but my dad used to operate a couple of ice cream trucks in Athol. I recently bought an ice cream truck, and I’m hoping to get a permit in Athol, a permit in Orange and a permit in Gardner. I just got my final approval in Gardner, so I’m able to sell ice cream in Gardner now and I’m just looking for consent to sell ice cream in your town.”

“Given the fact that we are currently in this pandemic,” said board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, “I guess I’m not particularly clear what phase ice cream trucks are officially allowed to open in. It certainly constitutes takeout, but restaurants that are doing outdoor eating, for example aren’t opening until Phase 2. Do you have an understanding where that falls under state guidelines?”

Tessier said her business is allowed to serve at present, explaining that all of her ice cream is pre-packaged novelty items. She said such items are all she sells from her truck.

Tessier further explained that she assured the boards of health in both Gardner and Athol that she would follow their guidelines and that her business had been approved by both bodies.

“I’m able to serve ice cream now,” she said. “I have to maintain the six-foot distance from everybody. I carry gloves. I carry plenty of hand sanitizer. I have masks on board. As long as I follow all that I’m able to sell ice cream right now.”

“What about handling the cash?” asked Bialecki. “We’re going to be discussing our farmers market later, and we’re really trying to keep down the exchange of money. I’m wondering if you’re aware of any guidelines that need to be met.”

“I do not have to do cash,” Tessier replied. “I have the Square card where people don’t have to touch anything, they just tap their card on my little Square I leave on my counter.”

“What about kids?” asked board member Holly Young. “Are you going to accept cash from kids running up to the truck with their dollars?”

Tessier said she is allowed to accept cash in Gardner.

“If you choose not to have me accept cash, I do have an option to go cashless,” she said. “But I do accept cash. I use hand sanitizer.”

Town Manager Shaun Suhoski suggested the board could approve Tessier’s permit, making it contingent on her following the guidelines of the town’s Board of Health.

In response to another question from Young, Tessier said, since she only owns one, her truck would likely appear in Athol only two days a week, as well as a couple of days in Gardner and, hopefully, Orange.

The board voted unanimously to approve Tessier’s permit.


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