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October 20, 2021

Central Mass. restaurant revenues dropped 11.53% in fiscal 2021

photo/GRANT WELKER The Parkway Diner on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester created its own outdoor seating area in the first few months after restaurants were allowed to reopen in June 2020.

Restaurant revenue in Central Massachusetts remained down in fiscal 2021, dropping 11.53% and showing the long-lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality industry, according to figures reported on communities which partake in the state’s optional local meals tax.

The local option meals tax adds 75 cents to a bill for every $100 spent. There were 49 communities in Central Massachusetts opting into the tax by the end of fiscal 2021, which ended in June.

In 2021, those communities collecting the optional local meals tax collected a combined $12.5 million, which was a decrease from fiscal year 2020, when they collected $14.2 million, and fiscal year 2019, when they collected $15.1 million, according to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

The decrease from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2021 was nearly twice the drop between 2019 and 2020, when local meals tax collections dropped 6.26%. The coronavirus pandemic hit at the tail end of fiscal 2019 and has continued since, spreading its impact now into the ongoing fiscal 2022.

Some communities in Central Massachusetts fared worse than others in fiscal 2021 compared to fiscal 2020. Among them were Framingham, which saw a decline of 25.65%, Bolton, which declined 38.37%, and Sturbridge, which declined 26.71%. The data covers July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

These decreases came amid an ongoing labor shortage, wherein the restaurant industry is faring worse than most other sectors, supply chain issues, and, of course, COVID-19 protocols which have, at times, shut down restaurants, decreased capacities, and forced owners to retool their business models.

Other significant markets in the region saw major declines, including Marlborough, which was down 17.25% year over, and Natick, which was down 21.59%.

The city of Worcester was down 7.91%, which was worse than its drop is fiscal 2020 when restaurant revenues dropped 7.05%.

Although local meals tax revenue increased in some areas, like Athol, which was up 17.03%, few were as significant as the decreases.

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