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Portland outdoor dining permits to be in effect this spring through April 2022, city announces

Several streets in downtown Portland will be closed to traffic so restaurants and shops can operate safely amid the pandemic
Credit: Portland Press Herald Staff
Restaurants on Exchange Street, shown during street closures last summer.

PORTLAND, Maine — The City of Portland announced its plan to continue its outdoor permitting program as business owners brace for another season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The program, which was first approved by the Portland City Council last May and later extended to May 10, 2021, aims to help restaurants and retail businesses open while being able to maintain public health and safety protocols.

"This is not just for business owners, but for folks who work in one of our largest industries," City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said after the city council unanimously voted to extend the plan.

The permitting program this year will be in effect from April 2021 to April 2022, the city said in a release Tuesday.

“We look forward to working with small business owners and residents to help the city thrive safely in the coming year,” City Manager Jon Jennings said in a release. “We welcome any suggestions or proposals to further improve business’ ability to operate successfully and in compliance with State regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city says the program applies to the entire city of Portland, rather than just the downtown area. However, select streets only in the downtown area will be closed to vehicle traffic from April 5 through Nov. 1:

  • Wharf Street
  • Dana Street
  • Milk Street (between Exchange and Market Streets)
  • Fore Street (the southeast side of Boothby Square between Pearl and Silver Streets)
  • Middle Street (traffic reduced to one-way between India and Franklin Streets)

RELATED: Portland City Council votes to extend outdoor dining to May 10

The city says commercial vehicles will be able to access the closed streets before 11 a.m. daily to make deliveries.

The city says the closure of the southeast side of Boothby Square (between Pearl and Silver streets) is a new addition to the program and was made in response to requests from local businesses.

“As this is a street over which the State has authority, its closure will be confirmed pending MaineDOT approval,” the city said in a release.

Businesses that wish to conduct business outdoors during the winter must apply for a seasonal renewal, at no cost. The city says the "purpose of this seasonal renewal is to ensure that existing structures can accommodate snow removal operations, as well as to gather information on which businesses plan to continue to operate outdoors during the winter."

The application deadline for the winter program is October 15, 2021.

RELATED: Covid forces restaurants to get creative with outdoor winter dining

Businesses not located on a closed street may apply for up to two contiguous parklets, the city said. All parklet regulations must be met. 

Parklets located on streets with speed limits in excess of 25 mph or on streets with significant vehicle traffic will be required to include one concrete barricade, provided and placed by the City, on all three sides not abutting the curb.

Parklets located on streets with speed limits under 25 mph and relatively low levels of vehicle traffic are required, by City Code, to include three-foot wheel stops on either end of their parklet. Staff will consider requests to place concrete barricades on the short ends of parklets in lieu of wheel stops.

To help create a welcoming atmosphere on and around closed streets, the city says staff has planned several changes to the style and configuration of barricades. Most notably, large concrete planters with a pebbled texture will be used at the ends of closed streets.

Parks Department staff will plant and maintain flowers beginning in May (depending on the weather). In the event of a shortage of planters, concrete barricades topped with wooden planters will be used. Both planters and barricades will be spaced appropriately to allow pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as sightlines up and down streets.

Businesses who wish to apply should visit the City’s Business Licensing page to access the application materials.