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Updated: May 13, 2020

Portland mulls closing streets to help retailers reopen

Courtesy / City of Portland This map shows street closures proposed by the city of Portland to accommodate outdoor dining and retail sales.

The city of Portland has drafted a plan to help restaurants and retailers resume operations as public health restrictions are lifted.

The proposal includes temporary closures of six downtown streets to accommodate more outdoor dining and retail sales and expansion of existing outdoor dining spaces onto public and private property, according to a news release.

The city says the plan is in keeping with Gov. Janet Mills’ order to allow the reopening of restaurants, retail establishments and other commercial activity in Cumberland County, scheduled for June 1.

On Tuesday, Mainebiz reported that Rockland is considering a similar measure to boost foot traffic for Main Street retailers. 

Under Portland's plan, the following streets would be closed 24 hours a day, with businesses allowed to operate on them until 10 p.m.:

  • Cotton Street (from Spring Street to Fore Street)
  • Dana Street
  • Exchange Street (from Fore Street to Federal Street)
  • Milk Street (from Exchange Street to Market Street, and Silver Street to Pearl Street)
  • Middle Street (from Franklin Street to India Street)
  • Wharf Street.

Through-traffic and parking would not be permitted at any time during these hours. Temporary access would be permitted for delivery vehicles, residents and food trucks. 

New dining configurations would have to meet social distancing guidelines for 6-feet separations between customers, as well as other requirements under the state’s COVID-19 prevention checklists. Signage would have to be posted reminding visitors of the safety precautions.

City permitting and inspections staff would assist businesses to allow those with valid outdoor dining permits to expand their operations, help other businesses with obtaining new or renewed outdoor dining permits for these new spaces, or develop proposals for "parklets."

“We worked quickly across several departments to put together a proposal that would give our small business community a number of useful tools to assist them as they seek to reopen or expand their operations in accordance with the state’s guidance for a June 1 opening,” City Manager Jon Jennings said in the release.

“This a pilot program with a number of temporary policy changes that, if approved, we hope will help businesses as they seek to begin safely serving patrons again.”

The city said it would waive fees for the expansion of outdoor dining premises, and fees associated with parklet applications will be significantly reduced. New outdoor dining permit fees or renewals as well as fees for sidewalk sale permits will remain the same, but fees will not be due until 60 days after the permit has been issued. All permit changes will be valid from June 1 to Nov. 1.

Courtesy / City of Portland
This graphic shows the permitting process for outdoor dining under the city’s new reopening proposal.

City staff will present the proposed plan to the council’s Economic Development Committee on May 14 at 4 p.m. The proposal is then expected to head to the full council at its May 18 meeting.

The proposed plan will serve as a pilot, and will be reviewed on the basis of data collection, observation and public feedback, the city said.

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