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Portland City Council votes to end emergency proclamation, continue outdoor dining and retail

The council voted to make June 30th to November 1st the 'Outdoor Dining/Retail Festival' as a way to continue street closures and outdoor dining permits

PORTLAND, Maine — After more than 16 months in place, the Portland City Council has voted to lift the city's Proclamation of a State of Emergency and Stay at Home Order.

The city council voted unanimously to repeal the proclamation that allowed city officials to more easily put in place measures to fight COVID-19 and also support businesses.

The proclamation was originally slated to continue through November 1, however will now only last until July 29. 

One key component of the emergency proclamation was the expansion of outdoor dining and retail into public spaces. That will not be ending, however. Portland city councilors voted unanimously to adopt an order to allow it to continue on Monday evening. 

"With the repeal of that emergency proclamation, it does take away all of the authority to be able to close streets and provide that outdoor space that many of our restaurants and businesses have needed," said Portland City Manager Jon Jennings during the meeting.

To combat that, Jennings introduced an order to declare July 30 through November 1 the 'Outdoor Dining/Retail Festival.'

According to city staff, declaring this as a festival will allow for those continued street closures and access for businesses to use permitted public spaces. According to the order, no additional fees will be charged to the stores and restaurants already permitted. 

Councilors also add they hope to soon draft and discuss an ordinance to make these closures more permanent.

"I think it's been a great lesson during the pandemic for all of us to realize how much more we can do outside in the winter. That's schools, and businesses and everybody has learned to do a lot more outside and I think it's very helpful, so I hope that we do work to get these in place permanently as soon as possible," said Portland City Councilor Belinda Ray in the meeting.