PROVINCETOWN — With a flat tone and zero arguments, the select board on Monday rescinded parade permits and banned the use of town property through Dec. 31, in effect canceling the Fourth of July fireworks and parade and the Carnival parade.
All that the town’s elected leaders debated Monday night was whether to cancel events only through Aug. 31, which was the initial suggestion by town staff, or to extend the ban through the end of the year.
The end of the year made sense, they decided, because various organizations can re-apply to hold events with new rules when more is known about Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-phase re-opening plans. The select board briefly mentioned the Provincetown 400 events, which have been scheduled for the fall, as fitting into the category of wait-and-see.
As for the summer, however, Provincetown’s most celebrated events won’t happen, will be greatly constrained, or will be relegated to the virtual.
The Provincetown Portuguese Festival, scheduled for late June, will exist this year only as the Blessing of the Fleet. That is, the boats will still be blessed on MacMillan Pier, as usual; but it will be a much quieter day, similar to the first blessing in 1948, according to an announcement from the festival organizers. The exact timing is still to be determined. The organizers will, however, decorate the streets with Portuguese flags and paint the pavement with Portuguese roosters. A booklet and a T-shirt featuring a painting by Truro artist Thomas A.D. Watson will be for sale online.
Businesses and visitors were already mourning the cancellation of Bear Week, Pride Week, Family Week, and the Provincetown International Film Festival, all major draws of the annual summer tourist season.
Radu Luca, executive director of the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, was as quiet as the select board when he described the state of Provincetown’s business community.
He referred to a survey of local businesses by the Provincetown Recovery Coalition, which found that 62 percent say they will need additional disaster relief funding to survive.
Luca said the Monkey Bar and one other restaurant, which he would not name, have already decided not to open at all this year.
Reservations in guest houses and hotels are currently down by 20 to 60 percent from last year, Luca said.
Bob Sanborn, executive director of the Provincetown Business Guild, said once Gov. Baker announces new rules on May 18, the recovery coalition will try to make decisions in the following two weeks on how Provincetown can adapt.
The business community survey found broad support (90 percent) for continued social distancing, enhanced sanitation, and contactless payments. Close to 80 percent of the respondents said they plan to open this summer, with 20 percent not sure. About 72 percent said they would remain open later in the year to compensate for lost business.
Business owners were slightly more divided (67 percent in favor) about turning a section of Commercial Street into a pedestrian mall for a portion of the day.
And a majority of businesses would like relaxed restrictions in public spaces to allow outside display for retail, pop-up tents and gallery stroll nights, public picnic areas on town property, and expanded restaurant service to adjacent outside areas including the sidewalks and beach areas, according to Leslie Sandberg, the spokesperson for the recovery coalition.
“Basically our objective is to manage the people who come to Provincetown in a safe way,” Sanborn said.