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Some ‘non-essential’ businesses are adapting in order to stay open while adhering to Gov. Mills' coronavirus mandates

Non-essential businesses can remain open if they practice social distancing, do not allow in-person interaction and do not allow 10 or more people to convene

The coronavirus outbreak in Maine has changed daily life in every way. Kids are ‘distance learning’ from their living rooms instead of in the classroom, grocery stores’ shelves are largely picked over rather than stocked, and thousands of people across Maine are either out of work or working in their pajamas from a make-shift dining room table office.

In an effort to slow and contain the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Janet Mills signed an Executive Order last week banning gatherings of 10 or more people, as well as dine-in restaurants and bars. Mills’ order calls for all public-facing non-essential businesses in the state to close for 14 days. Additionally, Portland and South Portland have issued stay at home orders, which means people cannot leave their houses unless for specific reasons.

While it may feel like businesses left and right are closed to adhere to Gov. Mills’ and town officials’ recent mandates, there are some businesses that are staying open, while still complying with the new orders.

Mills made clear in the order the differences between essential and non-essential businesses. Examples of essential businesses are grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, and trash collection and other city services. Both essential and non-essential businesses must still practice social distancing, however.

Non-essential businesses include restaurants, gyms, hair salons, and shopping malls.

RELATED: Clarifying essential businesses vs. non-essential businesses

A key point of Mills’ order for non-essential businesses and operations to close is that they are public-facing, meaning they allow customer-vendor in-person contact. The order says non-essential businesses and operations may continue activities that:

  • Do not allow customer, vender or other visitor in-person contact
  • Do not require more than 10 works to convene in space where social distancing is not possible
  • Are facilitated to the maximum extent practicable by employees working remotely

So, restaurants are still allowed to be open for takeout, roadside pickup, and delivery. You can see which restaurants are available here.

In addition to restaurants, other businesses that can adapt to these changes are getting creative and staying open, and with spring weather already popping up, you’ll be glad they are.

Golf and disc golf courses are perfect examples of ‘non-essential’ businesses that can remain open, while also adhering to the mandates. Pleasant Hill Disc Golf in Scarborough has quickly adapted in order to keep their course up and running.

"Under the Executive Order, clubhouses are not open; however, courses can be open so long as the people on the course are engaging in appropriate physical distancing practices as outlined by the U.S. CDC," Maine Dept. of Economic and Community Development spokesperson Kate Foye told NEWS CENTER Maine.

Courses pro shops are closed to avoid in-person interactions, but Kristi Stanley, manager of Pleasant Hill Disc Golf, explained they have modified operations so now there is window service. Stanley also said they are utilizing an ‘honor box’ system that allows people to pay by dropping money off in a locked box, rather than doing face-to-face transactions.

She explained the honor box system is common for golf courses, so it was an easy solution. People are now able to pay online as well, which wasn’t possible before for Pleasant Hill.

“We are trying to adapt but we are a very small business and we are a seasonal business,” Stanley said. “People are anxious to get out when there is good weather…and this is a relatively safe way to get outdoors if people are cautious about it.”

Golf courses have also made changes to their business models. According to the Portland Press Herald, at The Links at Outlook and Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough, golfers must walk and carry their own bags, and there are no carts available. 

Owner and general manager at Nonesuch told the Press Herald, "I don’t see how we can properly disinfect [golf carts], and our driving range is not open."

Other businesses already fall into those requirements; drive-in movie theaters, for example. While drive-in theaters haven’t opened for the season yet, they will likely be an easy outlet for people to maintain the guidelines and social distancing while also being able to get out of the house.

The city and state mandates also aren't prohibiting outdoor walks and exercise, as long as social distancing is practiced. 

RELATED: Portland announces stay at home emergency order

RELATED: What shelter-in-place, stay-at-home orders mean and which businesses are considered essential

The City of Portland stay home order says, "Outdoor exercise and/or dog walking is also specifically permitted. All individuals are encouraged to not use or congregate on City playgrounds, and it is recommended that all individuals should seek, to the maximum extent possible, to be at least six (6) feet from any other person with whom they do not share a household with when engaged in any travel or exercise activities on City streets, trails, grounds, fields, tennis or basketball courts or other outdoor areas."

However, people that are "out and about" for non-work or basic needs related trips could be fined. In Portland, someone in violation of the stay-at-home order could be fined up to $500.

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

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