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'We’re at full capacity': Many restaurants in three counties reopen for outdoor dining

Citing continued spread of COVID-19, Mills last week announced restaurants in Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin counties can only offer outdoor dining as of June 1.

PORTLAND, Maine — At the Independent Ice Co. in Portland, they're gearing for a busy evening.

“The past 48 hours my phone has been ringing off the hook with people making reservations, people asking what time we open,” General Manager Gary Savage said.

“We had kind of a set-back when the governor announced we could only do outdoor dining.”

Less than a week before restaurants were slated to open, Governor Janet Mill's took indoor dining off the table for restaurants in Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin Counties, citing the continued spread of COVID-19.

"Lucky we were one of a few that didn't order a large amount of food at the time,” Savage said.

RELATED: 'This is heinous': Restaurant owners react to dine-in delay

Also open for business is the Portland Lobster Company on Commercial Street.

"Definitely excited to actually have customers, we're like 'YES!'” Manager Ashley Laferniere said.

"We've been working really hard to get everything ready. We have all of our social distancing markers here, we’re trying to keep everyone as safe as possible."

Laferniere knows being a mostly outdoor establishment puts them in a really good position.

"We were fortunate we were really unscathed. I do feel really bad for all of the restaurants in Portland it's too bad it really is.”

While it's clear there a lot of people ready to enjoy some outdoor dining not everyone is so sure.

"We all make our choices I'm not ready yet, I'll give it a wait and see. But I’m happy with what Governor Mills is doing,” Portland resident Durinda Chase said.

Her friend Carolyn Young, also of Portland, said, “given my age, I would only eat outside. It will be a long time before I go into a restaurant.” She went on to say "it's always been the human factor. The facility can do everything right but it only takes one person.”

But for the people who do feel comfortable venturing out Savage says it's a good time. Fewer tourists means fewer cars and you just might find a parking spot.

"A lot of people in Maine avoid the old port in the summer so this is a perfect opportunity to come down to Old Port and enjoy what’s going on here,” Savage said.

Restaurants in Maine’s 12 other counties were able to open for indoor dining on May 18th as part of a rural reopening plan. Cases of COVID-19 are less in those areas where 90% of the more than 700 active cases are in Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin Counties. Although community transmission has been identified in Penobscot County, Gov. Mills allowed restaurants there to open for dine-in seating as well. 

RELATED: Mills postpones restaurant reopening for dine-in customers in 3 Maine counties

RELATED: Decision to delay full restaurant openings linked to county coronavirus, COVID-19 cases

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

NEWS CENTER Maine Coronavirus Coverage

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