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Maine restaurants scramble to survive through the winter and coronavirus rules

In Portland it’s a double whammy as some downtown streets closed for outdoor dining during the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic will re-open November 1st

MAINE, USA — Like many restaurants, Little Giant in Portland only offered curbside pick up for weeks until being allowed to re-open in June during the coronavirus pandemic. Federal loans, participating in Cooking for Community and a demand for al fresco dining helped his restaurant bounce back this summer.

'Not everybody has the benefit of having a nice sunny corner that allowed us to stay active for six to 8 weeks,' Ian Malin, the owner of Little Giant said. 

Malin didn't expand to indoor dining because of CCOVID-19 concerns.  As cold temperatures set in customers are dropping off despite setting up butane heat lamps. 

'We are encouraging people to wear blankets and bundle up a little bit. We think we can get to November first,' Malin said.

At DiMillo's on the water in the Old Port sales are down fifty percent compared to last year. PPE funding  helped the business bring back nearly three quarters of it's staff. Owner Steve DiMillo says restrictions on travelers from Massachusetts was tough.

'Losing them for the summer was pretty devastating to our sales. We are happy they are coming back,' Steve DiMillo, the owner of DiMillo's on the water said.

Also looming -- streets that were closed or used to expand outdoor seating in Portland will reopen to traffic November 1st. Malin in the meantime may reconfigure an outdoor courtyard through the winter and possibly hold catered events indoors for limited groups to survive until next year. 

Hospitality Maine is lobbying the state to allow restaurants to expand capacity in their establishments. 

'We would like to see ideally a 50 percent capacity allowance with six foot table distancing that would allow the larger room more able to serve more people and keep them safe,' Hewins said.

'It could allow some restaurants to accommodate a higher number of individuals. On the other hand however, the greater number of individuals who are in a particular space, as we’ve seen can raise the possibility of there being transmission of COVID-19,' Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah.

Shah says officials are studying the proposal and any change in policy concerning capacity for restaurants and other establishments would be based on Covid data and science.

COVID guidelines and check lists from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development go here