He’s worked in the Northeast’s top kitchens, but nothing could have prepared Justin Urso for opening a hotel restaurant during COVID-19

Justin Urso, 32, has a stellar resume: Catalyst, Deuxave, and L’Espalier in Boston; Del Posto and Maze in New York City, where he worked under Gordon Ramsay. But nothing could have prepared him to open The Dial inside Central Square’s new 907 Main Hotel in September, when few people are visiting town and locals are reluctant to dine out. The restaurant has a global menu, though, and Urso is banking on people traveling to try his food.



a person posing for the camera: Chef Justin Urso opened The Dial restaurant at 907 Main in Cambridge's Central Square in September 2020.


© Handout
Chef Justin Urso opened The Dial restaurant at 907 Main in Cambridge’s Central Square in September 2020.

You’re the chef at a hotel restaurant that opened during a pandemic. How’s that been going?

Well, I mean, it’s been quite an ordeal. Just before COVID-19 hit, we were probably about three weeks to a month away from opening. And then COVID happened, and obviously our site got shut down. And then, once construction was allowed to resume, we went from being able to have five to 10 people working in a space together to only having one person in a room at a time, so then that delayed our construction.

So we’re open now, and we couldn’t be happier. I know times are tough, but as our owner has said, “Sometimes the best thing to do to get through a storm is to drive right through it.” So that’s what we’re doing; we’re full steam ahead and making the best of a bad situation. Opening has certainly been challenging with COVID, with all of the added safety measures — not that they’re a challenge, but it’s something new to get used to and train everyone on. . . . On top of all of the added stresses of opening a restaurant, it’s adding one more on top, but I think our team has done a fantastic job.

What sort of safety protocols did you have to learn? I think people would be really curious to know.

Aside from obviously wearing gloves and masks at all times, we stop service every hour to wipe down and sanitize all surfaces, which you can imagine during a restaurant service has its challenges, but safety is the number-one priority. So we literally stop every hour on the hour and sanitize every surface in the kitchen, and any high-touch points like the slicer, fry handles, underneath any refrigerator doors. All of our employees have to do wellness checks when they walk in the door. They get a temperature taken and fill out a questionnaire every single day.

Also, we recently installed some air-filtration systems. They’re from a company called Aura Air, and they’ve got four different types of filters: a HEPA filter, a copper filter, a UV filter, and an ion sterilization process. So our space is about as safe as you can make it during COVID, but it’s certainly all been things that we’ve had to learn.

What’s your your take on indoor dining? That’s a source of debate and concern for people. How you think

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UK travel industry calls for urgent government action

Planes on the apron at London City Airport which has been closed after the discovery of an unexploded Second World War bomb.
Planes at London City Airport. Photo: PA

UK travel group ABTA said the government is not doing enough to support the sector, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

It criticised the government for “ever-changing quarantine rules and a dwindling number of destinations for holidaymakers to visit,” and demanded tailored support, including further grants.

ABTA said it is “vital that the Global Travel Taskforce launched this month to consider a testing regime, and other measures to support recovery of the travel industry, acts decisively and urgently to help increase consumer confidence and get the industry moving again.”

The taskforce was set up by the government and is meant to report to prime minister Boris Johnson no later than early November, setting out recommendations for how the UK can support the recovery of international travel.

According to new figures released by ABTA, only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July 2020 compared to 51% over the 12-month period, and 64% the previous year.

READ MORE: EU gets approval to slap $4bn worth of tariffs on US imports in Boeing dispute

More than half (53%) of the people surveyed said they took fewer overseas holidays this past year compared to the previous year, with 87% of those saying they took fewer holidays because of coronavirus. 

Government restrictions were a contributing factor to a hesitation to travel, with 93% of people concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice and four in five people (80%) concerned about having to quarantine when they return to the UK.

The findings are from research based on a sample of 2,000 consumers and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2020.

Meanwhile, figures also revealed that more than half of people (52%) believe that the travel industry should reopen in a greener way. 

A new report by ABTA identified the sustainability challenges faced by the industry, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and to ensure that tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities.

READ MORE: Turbulent times ahead for airlines as UK travel quarantine measures kick in

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s CEO said: “There is no doubt that people’s confidence and trust in the industry has taken a huge hit — and we must work hard to earn that trust back. Not only is that by being creative and flexible in terms of the holiday and customer experience we offer, but also by making sustainability a fundamental principle of travel.”

Earlier this week a survey was reported to show that nearly two-thirds (64%) of business leaders see domestic and international travel as “key to their future prospects.”

The research, commissioned by London City Airport, also indicated that 48% believe the government’s quarantine restrictions are the biggest barrier to business air travel.

In other news showing the toll the pandemic has taken on the travel industry, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz has quit the top job with immediate effect, to be replaced by

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MLB great Joe Morgan remembered by Mike Schur, creator of ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘The Good Place’

On Sunday, former Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman and baseball broadcasting legend Joe Morgan died at the age of 77. The Hall of Famer’s accomplishments are legion. The guy had two MVPs, two World Series titles, 10 All-Star appearances … and one sports blog, named in his dishonor, called FireJoeMorgan.com.

For years FJM critiqued Morgan’s baseball commentary through a sabermetric lens, becoming a cult hit in the early blogosphere. And it turned out that the man behind it, Mike Schur, was also the guy behind TV shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “The Good Place,” “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” and “The Office.”

In this Q&A, which originally aired on The ESPN Daily podcast, Schur discusses the site and what Morgan meant to him.

Pablo Torre: I just want to know first off, what went through your mind when you heard the news?

Mike Schur: Um, what went through my mind, purely sadness. Baseball’s my favorite sport and I felt nothing but sadness that he was gone, especially in a week and a month that has also seen the passing of, uh, you know, a lot of other baseball greats, Tom Seaver and Al Kaline and Whitey Ford and all these people.

Pablo: Describe for those who aren’t familiar, the kind of tension, the dichotomy between being a site that considers Joe Morgan, maybe the best, second baseman ever, or one of the two best ever while also being a site that obviously criticized him quite publicly.

Mike: Yeah, we always regretted that we named the site Fire Joe Morgan, because we didn’t want the guy to be fired, really. It was a crass sort of early internet version of, um, you know, making noise and banging on a pot and calling attention to yourself.

What we were complaining about was that this guy who, in his career did everything right, every single aspect of his game was incredible. He was an incredible defensive second baseman. He led the league in on base percentage four times. He was a 5-foot-7, second baseman who wants to lead the league in OPS. In fact, twice, I think led the league in OPS. He was a marvel.

Pablo: That’s wild.

Mike: Yeah. And not only did he do everything right, he specifically did the things right that the sort of modern analytic movement has shown to be the most valuable possible things you can do. He was just an incredible player in exactly the ways that the sort of “Moneyball” era was beginning to point out how undervalued guys like him actually were.

And then he got into the broadcast booth. And it also spoke to this kind of generational divide where this sort of old-school, ’60’s, ’70’s kinds of players we’re fighting against the modernization of the way that we look at the game analytically. And so he became a sort of poster child for us and for other people, because he was the flagship commentator on the Sunday Night

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Covid-19 Travel Bubbles Were Set to Restore Flying but Haven’t Taken Off

A few months ago, travel bubbles were the big idea for reopening skies across the Asia-Pacific region. Countries would strike deals with each other to allow air travel with certain restrictions, many officials said, and those would expand to regional pacts.

It’s proving hard to do, even for countries that have largely managed to keep a lid on the coronavirus.

Take Singapore, a city-state whose economy is so dependent on its airport, officials liken it to the lungs. Passenger volumes are languishing at 1.5% of pre-coronavirus levels, threatening its status as an aviation hub and the investment that comes with it.

The region’s other airports are similarly quiet, according to the latest data from August. Hong Kong International Airport saw 1.4% of passenger traffic compared with August 2019. At Japan’s Narita airport, international travelers in August were just 3.3% of the same month last year. At South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, passenger volumes were 3.6%.

Across the region—which is home to many of the world’s top coronavirus-conquering countries—strict travel caution is seen as key to keeping the virus in check. Governments from China and Vietnam to Thailand and New Zealand, where the pandemic is under control, are loath to risk introducing new sources of infection from abroad, calculating that a Covid-19 resurgence would be worse than the economic harm caused by keeping borders shut.

As a result, countries have largely avoided opening up even to other low-risk countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Restarting relatively free travel to Europe and the U.S., where cases are high, remains a nonstarter for most.

Negotiations for travel bubbles have turned out to be slow and complex. It isn’t just about comparing infection rates, officials have found, but also working out tricky details, such as swapping 14-day quarantines with tests, agreeing to mutually acceptable testing standards and designating laboratories to issue fit-to-fly certificates.

In Hong Kong, officials have talked about 11 potential travel bubbles, but none have materialized. The city’s persistent cases of local transmission, in mostly single digits daily, have put a wrinkle in discussions with mainland China. Tourism-dependent Thailand hasn’t committed to bubbles amid worries that even a careful infusion of travelers could reverse its success in controlling the spread. Australia’s opening to New Zealand isn’t a bubble but a narrow one-way street.

Where fast-track options have emerged for business travel, the trips often involve multiple tests, some quarantine and lots of advance paperwork. Those wanting to fly for work from Japan to Singapore must be sponsored by a company in the city-state, get tested before departure and after arrival and declare an itinerary beforehand—and stick to it.

Short-term business travelers from South Korea to Japan can skip the two-week quarantine, but the list of conditions is long, including as many as four tests for a round-trip—within 72 hours before departure and at the airport upon arrival in both countries. Travelers can’t use public transport during the visit and for two weeks after returning. Tracing apps should be activated at all times.

Travelers

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From the hotel lobby to the ring — How the fight between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko came to be

Teofimo Lopez Sr. was in a hotel lobby in New York City in December 2018. The world didn’t know it yet, but when he ran into Vasiliy Lomachenko — the two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-division world titlist and boxing’s pound-for-pound king — and extended his hand, Lopez’s plan for his son was already in motion.

Lomachenko stared at Lopez, and as the father explained to Mark Kriegel last year, that look sent a message.

I’m better than you. Your son is not at my level.

But Lopez Jr.’s success was telling a different story. After starting his professional career in 2016 by racking up some impressive wins, he promised to “take over” boxing and laid out his path on making that happen — by defeating Lomachenko.

Top Rank Boxing is on ESPN and ESPN+. Subscribe to ESPN+ to get exclusive boxing events, weigh-ins and more.

7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN and ESPN Deportes: Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez, 12 rounds, for Lomachenko’s WBO and WBA lightweight titles and Lopez’s IBF lightweight title

The Lopez family has been calling out Lomachenko for the past two years, predicting victory. On Saturday night, predictions and callouts will yield to one of the must-see fights of 2020 as Lopez faces Lomachenko in Las Vegas. Here’s a look at how Lopez earned his shot against Lomachenko, and the knockouts and banter that paved the way.


Oct. 10, 2016: Top Rank signs Teofimo Lopez Jr. to a multiyear promotional contract.

“I think this kid is a real talent,” Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum tells ESPN at the time. “The [matchmakers] are really high on him. He’s a real strong kid and has a really big future as a professional. He’s a good fighter.”

Lopez, 19 at the time, is already comparing himself with some of the greats.

“I’m an entertainer — got to entertain,” Lopez says. “My style — I’m technical, very technical. I’m very smart when I’m in the ring, like Albert Einstein. I’m like a Sugar Ray [Leonard], Floyd Mayweather. I’m a boxer, but if the knockout comes, it comes.”


Feb. 1, 2018: Lopez Jr. introduces the slogan “The Takeover” on Instagram ahead of his fight on Feb. 3, 2018, against Juan Pablo Sanchez in Corpus Christi, Texas. Lopez went on to win an eight-round unanimous decision in his eighth pro fight.


May 12, 2018: Lopez continues The Takeover with a first-round KO of Vitor Freitas. Lopez celebrates the victory with the “Take the L” dance from Fortnite. The fight is on the Lomachenko-Jorge Linares undercard at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York and the talk about a possible fight between Lopez and Lomachenko begins.

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Teofimo Lopez Jr. lands a grazing right hand that sends Vitor Freitas to the canvas, and he uses the “Take the L” dance from Fortnite.

“I love this. I live for this,” Lopez says. “I told you guys that this is ‘The Takeover.’ I’ve been training hard and

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Google, a Longtime Ally of Travel Sites, Is Now a Powerful Rival

Google has long been one of the biggest drivers of new business for travel websites like

Expedia

and Tripadvisor. Some of them say the

Alphabet Inc.


GOOG 0.16%

unit is also a big competitive threat.

Berlin-based HomeToGo GmbH is an example of the bind facing many travel businesses. The vacation-rental website depends in part on Google to direct people to its service, but it says business has been affected by the search company’s placing a box of listings from third-party travel sites atop many pages of search results for vacation rentals.

In Google searches conducted this past summer, the rate at which people clicked when HomeToGo was the top regular result fell as much as three-quarters when Google’s vacation-rental listings box was present above, compared with when it wasn’t, according to calculations HomeToGo provided to The Wall Street Journal.

“Suddenly Google puts a less-good product more prominently above everything, and you’re thinking, ‘Is this fair competition?’” said Patrick Andrae, HomeToGo’s co-founder and chief executive.

Going Down

HomeToGo gets fewer clicks on its links in Google search results whenever Google’s vacation-rental finder box appears on the results page too.

HomeToGo’s click-through rate in each search position, by presence of vacation-rental box

HomeToGo’s click-through rate in each search position, by presence of vacation-rental box

HomeToGo’s click-through rate in each search position, by presence of vacation-rental box

HomeToGo’s click-through rate in each search position, by presence of vacation-rental box

Critics like HomeToGo say that Google’s travel boxes and other kinds of specialized search products increasingly keep users within the Google ecosystem, encouraging them to use Google products rather than clicking to other sites to transact business.

Google says it sends a growing volume of traffic to other websites and that, when it comes to travel information, its search engine faces tough competition from travel sites. A spokeswoman says Google developed new ways to display search results to satisfy users’ desire for quick access to helpful information. “Removing these results would create a worse experience for consumers and send less traffic to travel companies,” she said.

As antitrust regulators on both sides of the Atlantic investigate allegations that Google and other Silicon Valley giants have leveraged their heft to squash competitors, one area of focus is on the companies’ alleged abuse of their role as internet gatekeepers to punish or extract concessions from potential rivals, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Department of Justice is moving toward bringing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, potentially in the coming days, the Journal has reported. Google’s search practices are likely to be a key focus of such a lawsuit, the Journal report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The European Union’s top antitrust authority has issued Google more than $9 billion in fines, in part following allegations by shopping websites that say Google pushed down their search results with its own box of product ads. Google has appealed those decisions. EU officials have said investigators are now looking into the company’s use of

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Cleveland County recycle center moves to Westwood Recreation Complex

NORMAN — The Cleveland County Recycle Drop-off Center has relocated to the Westwood Recreation Complex due to major renovations at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.

Norman recyclers can find the new facility at 2430 Westport Drive, just west of the tennis courts.

Residents can now drop off their recycling at any of Norman’s three recycle centers:

• Westwood Recycle Center, 2430 Westport Drive.

• Fire Station No. 9 Recycle Center, 3001 E Alameda St.

• Hollywood Shopping Center Recycle Center, McGee Drive and Lindsey Street.

All recycle centers are now accepting glass in addition to aluminum, steel and tin cans, corrugated cardboard, newspaper, and plastics No. 1 and No. 2. Small diameter tree trimmings, grass, leaves and garden waste is accepted at the Compost Facility at 398 Bratcher/Miner Road during its regular business hours.

The Norman Sanitation Division also anticipates the completion of a fourth recycle facility at the Norman Transfer Station in mid-November. The drop-off center, 3901 S Chautauqua, will serve as the main hub for all three drop-off centers and accept scrap steel, used tires and clean lumber in addition to the regular recyclable items.

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The Memo: Trump travel plans reveal weakness in battlegrounds

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLabor secretary’s wife tests positive for COVID-19 Russia shuts down Trump admin’s last-minute push to strike nuclear arms deal before election Trump makes appeal to suburban women at rally: ‘Will you please like me?’ MORE is returning full steam to the campaign trail this week — but his schedule reveals the weakness of his position.

Trump will travel to Iowa for a rally Wednesday and to Georgia, as well as Florida, on Friday.

Trump carried Iowa by more than 9 percentage points against Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump makes appeal to suburban women at rally: ‘Will you please like me?’ Only William Barr stands between Trump and the end of democracy in America Texas county says more than 95 percent of eligible voters are registered for this election MORE in 2016, while no Democrat has won Georgia in a presidential election since former President Clinton in 1992.

The fact that those states are competitive is a warning sign about the president’s chances.

The travel decisions come at the same time as speculation mounts about the financial health of the president’s campaign. According to recent reports, the Trump campaign has pulled $17 million of planned ad spending from Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio.

Campaign aides pushed back against the suggestion of a cash crunch during a conference call with reporters Monday. The move pertaining to advertising was characterized by them as a straightforward call to not take up the option of airtime that had been reserved months ago.

During that same call, aides including campaign manager Bill StepienBill StepienThe Memo: Biden landslide creeps into view Trump relishes return to large rallies following COVID-19 diagnosis Trump tests negative for COVID-19 on consecutive days, doctor says MORE portrayed Trump as the campaign’s biggest asset, especially when it comes to rallies.

The president seems to have had his spirits lifted following his release from hospital, at least to judge from footage of him dancing briefly to The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” at a rally in Sanford, Fla., on Monday.

At the same event, Trump said to cheers that he felt “so powerful” after his struggle with COVID-19 that “I will walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys, and the beautiful women and everybody.”

Those comments again stirred up safety concerns as cases of coronavirus rise in many parts of the country. Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump makes appeal to suburban women at rally: ‘Will you please like me?’ Pro-Trump campaign ad uses stock footage from Russia, Belarus Harris raises alarm on abortion rights while grilling Barrett MORE has mostly avoided big rallies, a decision that his supporters hail as prudent from a public health perspective. Team Trump alleges the dearth of Biden rallies shows a lack of enthusiasm for the former vice president’s candidacy.

Trump is a big believer in the power of rallies to move the needle. He and his aides hearken back to the 2016 campaign as proof.

“In

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The Future of Hotel Design

At Virgin Hotels in Chicago, Dallas and Nashville, and coming to Las Vegas early next year, the company’s app was made more robust this year to control room lights, temperature and television. Room configurations separate the back bedroom from the dressing room near the hallway with a barn door behind which guests can remain, allowing attendants access to make deliveries without contact.

“We don’t make you sign the room-service check,” said Raul Leal, the chief executive of Virgin Hotels. “That’s an archaic accounting tool.”

Not every hotel can offer outdoor dining year-round. Neither can their restaurants thrive with the capacity restrictions forced by social distancing requirements. The solution: Make the entire hotel a dining area. And throw in robotic servers.

“This is meant to be an answer to how do you deconstruct the restaurant experience so you don’t have to eat in one small place,” said Ron Swidler, the chief innovation officer at The Gettys Group, a Chicago-based hotel design, development and consulting firm. The Gettys Group recently convened with a consortium of 325 industry professionals from Hilton, Marriott and Cornell University, among others, to come up with the Hotel of Tomorrow project, collaborating on future hotel innovations. (The company has a track record with the workshop; in the early 2000s, it came up with the idea of a robotic butler, later developed by the Aloft brand of hotels as the Botler).

The think tank envisioned delivery units of various sizes that could keep food hot and drinks cold and provide video or music for entertainment.

“Maybe these robots have personalities and hang out with you,” Mr. Swidler added.

Even without robot partygoers, existing hotels have a great incentive to repurpose their now underutilized meeting rooms, ballrooms and even event lawns.

“We’re thinking the whole dining experience could change,” Mr. Ito, of Gensler, said. “You can create spaces around the hotel that aren’t necessarily in the restaurant, but become pop-up areas for private dining. It’s all about personalization and creating a unique experience.”

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Norwood Recreation to host Trunk or Treat – News – Wicked Local

Editor’s Note: The following comes from the Norwood Recreation Department.

The Recreation Department has partnered with the Skating Club of Boston, 750 University Ave., and they are hosting the Trunk or Treat Drive Through on Saturday, Oct. 24, at 11:30 a.m. The club has a huge parking lot perfect for a drive-thru.

This year the cost will be $5 per car that drives through, and all the money will go to the Norwood Food Pantry. All cars must be preregistered.

This event is for Norwood residents only.

Participants will drive through and see all the different themed trunks and be able to wave; the department encourages participants to wear costumes and decorate their cars and get in the Halloween spirit.

Each trunk this year will not be passing out candy, but participants will receive a goody bag at the end of all the trunks from the Recreation Department due to COVID. The department already has more than 25 cars registered to decorate trunks, and police, fire, light, Norwood Community Media and DPW will be bringing a truck.

Registration will be limited and will open on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 9 a.m. There will be two time slots; only cars registered for the time slot will be able to drive through at that time.

 

Candy donations wanted

This year the department is making more than 500 goodie bags for Trunk or Treat participants. In order to donate all the proceeds to the Norwood Food Pantry, we need your help with candy donations.

Individually wrapped candy can be sent via Amazon to 165 Nahatan St., or candy dropped off at the Civic Center. We are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. All candy donations need to be brought in by Friday, Oct. 16.

 

 

 

 

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