PORTLAND, Maine — On Monday evening, the city of Portland announced that restaurants and retailers will be allowed to continue to operate outdoors on private property, public sidewalks, and in parking lanes until January 4, 2021 following the coronavirus pandemic.
Some downtown businesses already have plans to create one-of-a-kind outdoor winter dining experiences. While owners say it's nerve-racking to try something so unusual for the first time, they're excited about the challenge.
Portland Hunt and Alpine Club co-owner Andrew Volk says, "As far as outdoor dining, we're excited about what we're doing. We're trying to have fun with it."
This summer-- the Portland Hunt and Alpine Club became 'Camp Hunt and Alpine.' "Just to make sure people knew it was going to be a different experience and for the winter we're going to be 'Base Camp Hunt and Alpine.'"
The Scandinavian-inspired bar plans to embrace all things winter.
"We're going to be doing hot drinks... blankets... heaters outside... we're going to be shoveling our whole space," says Volk.
Down the street, The Thirsty Pig restaurant has big winter plans of its own.
Owner Dave Nowers says, "We're going to make little ice huts out here. We're going to have one out on the Exchange Street side and then we'll have four out on the other side, the Market Street side."
The enclosed "yurt-like" structures will be able to hold up to six people.
"We just want to bring something cool into the neighborhood. If the street is going to be closed then we want to show it off and be happy about it."
Over the summer, The Thirsty Pig invested in renovating its back deck, installing a structure for flowers and a wooden archway.
Nowers says the huts will be another big investment. "We're going to take that gamble and pay for it and hopefully it works out."
Gambling on Mainers not shying away from a little cold and snow. "I think people who live in Maine should embrace Maine. I don't know why people would want to be inside anyway!"
If you plan to stick to outdoor dining, Volk says customers should be prepared for a different kind of experience.
"This is new and different for everyone and we've seen an incredible amount of patience and kindness from guests and that's going to continue through the winter."
The city of Portland says it will begin to reopen closed streets on November 1st, beginning with Upper Exchange Street.
Any businesses that plan to continue outdoor operations into the winter will have to apply for a permit, but the city is waiving permit fees.