Governor Charlie Baker today revealed details of a four-phased plan to reopen the Massachusetts economy, and announced that most retail stores may reopen on May 25th with an important caveat: they will be able to offer remote fulfillment and curbside pickup only, at least for now.

A national advocacy group that represents more than 5,000 small businesses in Massachusetts quickly responded with cautious praise and words of advice.

“After nearly two months of closed doors, it is encouraging to know some small businesses will soon reopen in Massachusetts," said Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, or NFIB. "For many, it’s sink or swim, and today’s announcement could be their life preserver."

However, Carlozzi added that retail shops "will not last very long with curbside pickup only, so the state must allow customers in stores sooner rather than later."

Under Baker's plan, "non-essential" retail stores may take remote orders and conduct curbside pickup starting May 25 under Phase I of the state's reopening plan. During Phase II, if all safety requirements are met, they will be able to open their doors to customers.

There is no specific date on when Phase II will begin, although each phase could last around three weeks, officials said today. The Baker administration has reserved the right to slow or reverse the reopening process if public health metrics take a turn for the worse.

The NFIB also went to bat for restaurants, saying they can not continue to operate solely on take-out and delivery. "Massachusetts should at least allow outdoor dining like other neighboring New England states," Carlozzi said.

The organization added that it strongly encourages consumers to support local small businesses at this time by frequenting neighborhood shops to help them survive.

Small businesses "have faced every challenge imaginable during this pandemic," Carlozzi said. "First, they were forced to close their doors, then many struggled to obtain federal loans. They now face the hurdle of competing with overly generous unemployment benefits when attempting to rehire workers."

However, he said the biggest obstacle is simply being authorized to reopen, "something that must happen soon for businesses before their doors close permanently."

Baker's plan, devised by a 17-member advisory board, was released today following nearly two months of COVID-19 restrictions. It allows manufacturing and construction operations to begin immediately, with strong new safety protocols in place.

A shortlist of businesses -- including hair salons and barber shops, pet groomers, car washes, and retail -- may open on the 25th, again with tight protocols to prevent coronavirus transmission.

Restaurants are still confined to takeout and delivery only, and are slated for the resumption of sit-down dining, in some form, during Phase II -- ostensibly sometime in June.

The Baker administration's plan to reopen the Massachusetts economy can be downloaded here.

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