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Businesses prepare for lifted COVID-19 restrictions, plan to keep some guidelines in place

On Monday, May 24, a number of COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, however many Maine restaurants and bars are cautiously approaching reopening fully

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine businesses are gearing up for multiple COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted on Monday, May 24.

"People are really happy, we're feeling optimism, and it's just really nice to be back to bartending again," said Goodfire Brewing Co. tasting room manager Mitch Waterman. 

Some of the restrictions set to be lifted on May 24 include physical distancing requirements, indoor and outdoor capacity, along with the state's mask mandate. 

Businesses however will be allowed to continue enforcing their own policies, and many in the state are opting to do that.

"We're still going to ask that customers wear their masks indoor. When they're outdoors, they've have access to communal seating, there's no longer a restrictions on how many parties to a table," said Waterman. 

   

Other businesses in the greater Portland area are opting to keep some pandemic guidelines in place. Becky's Diner in Portland will follow the latest mask mandate, but plans to keep it's current socially distanced seating plan.

"When they say if you're vaccinated, you don't need to have a mask, we're probably going to follow that guideline. And if you aren't vaccinated or if you don't want to wear a mask, we have the outdoor seating for you to stay outside and you can follow the science in that direction," said Becky's Diner general manager, Zack Rand. 

Rand adds that if cases continue to drop throughout the summer, additional seating may be added. 

Just a mile away at Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, staff are preparing to reopen the dining room in the coming weeks after being closed for more than a full year. 

"We're going to have a slow shift, Bao Bao is gonna turn into a dinner service restaurant, it's going to come back to all the classic favorite which we're really excited about. And dining is just going to feel different," said Bao Bao Dumpling House owner, Cara Stadler. 

Stadler has opted to keep her restaurant operating as takeout only until all of her staff is able to become fully vaccinated. Stadler says she plans to reopen Bao Bao for dine-in by mid-June without any mask restrictions, however, encourages all who do come into her businesses without a mask to be vaccinated. 

Businesses like Goodfire, Becky's and Bao Bao are all optimistic for the return to normal soon, but say they're taking things slow and look forward to welcoming more customers back.

"We're going to wait, see how things look as the summer moves on, and for now while the weather's nice, just keep pouring outdoors," said Waterman.