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Portland restaurant owners face obstacles with outdoor dining

While business owners are excited to have people eat outside, they say the weather and making sure people stay safe can be challenging.

PORTLAND, Maine — It's been more than a week since restaurants in Portland opened for outdoor dining, and owners say so far so good.

"We've been taking it very slowly," said Luke's Lobster co-founder Ben Conniff.

Luke's Lobster said people have to have a reservation in order to dine outside. Customers can view the menu by scanning a QR code with their phone, and customers must wear masks when they are not at their table.

"We definitely want to be able to welcome people back here, and we definitely also want to be super responsible and do our part to make sure there is no spread here," said Conniff.

At the Porthole Restaurant and Pub, the owner said he had to take out tables for social distancing.

"We have high tops along the edge. We had to take out every other one, so we lost eight tables there. Everything else we could spread out, so they were  6 feet or more," said owner Kenneth MacGowen.

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He said his staff is wearing masks and get their temperature checked when they report for work.

He also said customers can't stay at a table for more than an hour and a half.

"We're known as being a place to come and drink. It was hard to let people know we weren't right now, we're a restaurant. Come and eat, have a drink with it, and move on so someone else can come in," said MacGowen.

Both owners said the biggest challenge is the weather.

"Either it's an overcast day and nobody dares to go out, or it rains while they are out. And when it rains while they are out, we can't let them inside," said MacGowen.

"When the weather is bad, it's not great business, but we do encourage people to shift to take out and delivery if they are not able to keep their reservation because of the weather," said Conniff.

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