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Bars and tasting rooms in Maine can soon reopen, but some have already changed licenses

Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced bars and tasting rooms can open for indoor service on March 26.

KITTERY, Maine — Editors note: the video above is the story explaining Governor Janet Mills' "Moving Maine Forward" plan.

On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills announced the "Moving Maine Forward" plan which allows bars and tasting rooms to reopen on March 26.

Woodland Farms Brewery in Kittery, however, had to change its business model due to the pandemic.

"Once it got cold it became very clear that it was not going to be sustainable for us to keep our tasting room open if we didn't do something about that,"  Woodland Farms owner Patrick Rowan said.

That something came in the form of a different liquor license. A three-week process and $500 later, Woodland Farms opened for indoor service again in December.

"Whatever it takes, so now we sell hot dogs and soup and things like that," Rowan said.

For others in the brewing industry, this is good news.

"I think a lot of folks are ready to serve customers indoors safely," Maine Brewers Guild Executive Director Sean Sullivan said. 

Safely is a keyword because, while restrictions are loosening, one thing will remain the same: CDC guidelines will continue to be part of our daily lives.

So while it may be time to raise a glass, officials are urging Mainers and those who can visit Vacationland to do so safely. 

“Public health and economic health go hand-in-hand – and this plan aims to achieve both,” Mills said in a release Friday. “By maintaining proven health measures, providing straightforward protocols, and establishing clear timeframes, this plan will protect the health of Maine people and visitors alike and support Maine’s economy during our critical tourism season.”

In addition, before Memorial Day, capacity limits for businesses and churches will increase from 50 to 75 percent and outdoor limits will increase to 75 percent, and then 100 percent.

Businesses that have more capacity under the current policy (50 people for indoor gatherings; 100 people for outdoor gatherings; or 5 people per 1,000 square feet) are permitted to maintain that standard until May 24.

However, the plan says those capacity targets can be dialed down if the Maine CDC determines hospital capacity is at risk or if a new variant "poses a significant risk to public health."