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Updated: May 24, 2022

Call before you go: Summer restaurant hours in Maine may surprise you

Photo / PETER VAN ALLEN The Front Street Pub in Belfast is one of the restaurants that will be open seven days a week.

Summer is the high season for many restaurants in Maine, particularly along the coast.

But not all of them plan to go flat out to please customers in the next three months. 

In what may be the labor shortage or just a sign that restaurant workers are feeling the burnout of the past couple years, many restaurants are opting to close two and even three nights a week.

As we head toward Memorial Weekend, the traditional start of the summer tourism season, the restaurants are opting for a less-taxing schedule to conserve their staff.

Photo / Tim Greenway
Matt Lewis, CEO of HospitalityMaine

"We may be headed into a new reality," said Matt Lewis, CEO of HospitalityMaine, whose members include restaurants and hotels. "For restaurateurs, it's a bit of a sigh of relief ... It's a way of adapting."

An unscientific look at restaurant hours in three key tourist towns — Belfast, Camden and Ogunquit — showed that out of 56 total restaurants: 

  • 19.6% are closed one night a week
  • 35.7% are closed two nights a week
  • 12.5% are closed three nights a week
  • Nearly a third, 32%, are open 7 days a week.

"I know that last summer, many restaurants that had normally (pre-COVID) been open seven days a week opted to close one day just so their entire staff had at least one day guaranteed off. Many this year, from what I’ve heard, are trying to staff hours so that most employees can try to have two days off each week, in an effort to retain good employees and reduce burnout," said Alice Pearce, executive director of the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce.

Pearce said she'd been told by one restaurateur that it’s difficult to make ends meet when a business plan called for being open seven days a week.

"It’s a delicate balance between being able to pay the bills and creating an environment that supports keeping your good employees with you," Pearce said in relaying the sentiments. “Opening five days a week in the summer doesn’t cover costs, but taxing the few staff you have beyond that risks losing more people.”

Another restaurant manager, Caitlyn Etchevers, sales and marketing director for Jonathan's Ogunquit, said additional H2B visas should ease the labor shortage. She said the restaurant hopes to be open seven days a week by mid-June. 

“It is always our goal to be open during peak times like the summer and we normally are open seven days a week by now but we have not been able to get there quite yet this season," she said.  

Tom Peaco, president and CEO of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the situation is similar in the Camden-Rockland market he represents. 

"We are certainly feeling the same effects ... here in the Camden-Rockland region,"  Peaco said. "We have about three dozen sit down restaurants as members of our chamber, and this week, only eight of them have plans to be open seven days a week."

He said others would be open seven days a week "if they had the staffing."

Overall business climate

Last week, Mainebiz took a reader survey asking, “Will your business expand its hours for the summer season?”

Of the 143 people that voted, 71% said they planned to stay pat on current hours. 

Another 13% said they’d expand hours if they can find enough workers.

And 16% said their plan all along was to expand hours for the summer.

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