BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — The streets and docks of this tourist town are normally crowded for Memorial Day weekend, but on this day, there was hardly a person to be seen at the town landing. Few pleasure boats in the harbor and the most prominent hotel in the village –Fisherman’s Wharf—is closed all because of COVID-19, and the toll it is taking on every aspect of society.
“Our goal is to make more reservations than cancellations on a daily basis. If we do that that’s a win,” said Ramsey Lafayette, regional manager for the family-owned Lafayette Hotels, which owns Fisherman’s Wharf and two other hotels in the Harbor.
Lafayette said there is no doubt the pandemic is keeping many tourists at home, but also Maine’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone, other than essential workers, coming into the state.
“I do think it reduces the number of out of state customers from what it has been in the past to pretty close to zero,” he said. In a normal tourist season, Lafayette says 90% of the hotel’s customers come from out of state.
In neighboring Boothbay, the Ocean Point Inn looked ready for guests but has none because it, too, is closed. A far cry from a normal Memorial Day says longtime owner Tony Krason.
“We’d be open, the dining room would be open, we would already have between thirty and fifty rooms tented,” Krason said, describing a more typical Memorial Day.
Instead the only people staying at the Inn are the summer staff, most of whom come each year from Florida and are completing their own quarantine period before they can start work.
The Inn plans to open June 12, a few days before the June 15 opening of Fisherman’s Wharf. Both facilities have been making changes to the buildings and procedures to ensure social distance between customers and staff, and address any concerns about cleanliness and other health issues. The state has provided extensive direction to many businesses for how to protect people from COVID-19. Both men say they’re confident the facilities can be operated safely and still provide an enjoyable experience for customers. They say there will be lots of changes from previous years. At Ocean Point, Krason and marketing director Pat Royall says they will be making greater use of the outdoors.
“We have a great strip of land along the ocean we haven’t utilized before this year, we will use it for meals and cocktails,” said Royall.
Krason said the Inn will be trying new ways to serve guests outside.
“The picnic tables are out back … getting ready for the front lawn, the food truck going by the pool for lunches, we’ve never done that.”
In downtown Boothbay Harbor, a group of restaurants has put more than a dozen picnic tables on the pier, close to their entrances, to allow for more outside dining. At nearby Fisherman’s Wharf, Lafayette says he believes tourists will still come if the quarantine requirement goes away.
“There is demand, people do want to reconnect with nature, get out and see people and do things. It won’t be what it was but there is definitely demand.”
The Mills administration has said it is consistently reviewing the quarantine requirement and will look for alternative ways to address the concerns about out of state travelers potentially bringing the virus to Maine.
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