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June 10, 2020

Portland on-street business program grows as city mulls enhancements

Photo / Peter Van Allen Exchange Street, in Portland's Old Port, is closed to vehicular traffic between the Middle Street intersection, shown here, and Fore Street.

From Anthony's restaurant at 151 Middle St. to Zane Boutique at 39 Exchange St., Portland's outdoor dining and retail pilot program has drawn participation from more than 80 businesses, according to an update from city officials this week.

The city published a list of all the businesses offering outdoor seating and sidewalk sales this week, and plans to enhance the program to help businesses attract customers after mandatory shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Permits have been awarded to businesses as part of the program, which closed several streets to vehicles on June 1.

To allow for the expanded street use, Dana, Wharf, Exchange (from Fore to Middle) and Middle (to Federal) streets were all closed at the start of this month, while Middle Street from India to Franklin streets became one-way on June 8.

Any traffic going down Hampshire Street now has to turn right.

In its update this week, the city said it worked quickly, without much lead time to  source and install barriers for the closures, and that it is now working to implement a more long-term plan that will enhance and improve the aesthetics of the street closure barricades.

"The city is looking at a variety of options, including planters, in order to add greenery," a City Hall spokeswoman said via email. "Any solution will balance aesthetics, length of delivery, public safety, and cost. It is expected that the new and improved barricades will be installed within the next few weeks." 

She also said Portland will work with civic organizations and business owners on additional and ongoing beautification efforts.

The effort comes amid an updated survey from Eat Drink Lucky newsletter and the organizers of Maine Restaurant Week of 1,500 restaurant customers conducted in May.

Close to half (49%) of respondents said they were comfortable eating out with social distancing at a restaurant, 93% said they expect servers and staff to wear face masks, and 65% expressed concern about out-of-state visitors bringing COVID-19 with them to Maine this summer. 

The survey was conducted before Gov. Janet Mills this week lifted a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors starting on July 1, as long as they can prove they test negative for COVID-19.

The plan was not well-received by the state's tourism industry, HospitalityMaine CEO Steve Hewins told Mainebiz on Monday.

Graphic of survey results, some of which are mentioned in the article
Courtesy/Eat Drink Lucky and Maine Restaurant Week
Results of a survey of restaurant diners conducted in May.

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