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Rockland explores closing Main Street to create 'open air market' as businesses in most Maine counties reopen

City leaders will discuss the plan to close Main Street to vehicle traffic Monday night.

ROCKLAND, Maine — City leaders in Rockland are exploring a plan to shut down a portion of Main Street to vehicle traffic in order to give local businesses there a boost.

The plan, the first of its kind in the state, would allow stores and restaurants to use the sidewalks as retail and dining space.

It is set to be discussed by city councilors Monday night.

“It’s a sad time for a lot of restaurants,” chef and local restaurant owner Lynn Archer said.

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Like many, Archer has been forced to operate as take out only at her waterfront restaurant and downtown café.

“It's challenging, but we're open and we're doing our best,” Archer said.

She and other local businesses are optimistic about a plan to create an open air market come June. Some have concerns about if they will have time to prepare though. 

"Am I happy about it? Absolutely,” she said. “But to do it within 30 days and not have safety measures put in place causes some pandemonium."

City Councilor Benjamin Dorr told NEWS CENTER Maine any plan would follow all state and federal guidelines.

"I think it's an experiment really. Let's try it!" Dorr said.

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The city's popular Maine Lobster Festival was canceled due COVID-19 this year. City officials and business leaders are looking at ways to salvage the summer tourism economy. 

Dorr cautioned that if they decide to close Main Street to traffic it would not be an open invitation for tourists to flock there though. 

“It isn't throwing opening the doors and saying come on down,” he said. “I think really it's about how do we get the people that are here to get to Main Street and support in a greater way."

Maine DOT confirmed it is working with the city to analyze traffic patterns.

Last week Governor Janet Mills announced changes to her reopening plan, allowing businesses in 12 of Maine's 16 counties to start opening sooner than expected. That includes Knox County, where Rockland is located. 

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Retail stores in every county except York, Cumberland, Penobscot and Androscoggin, are able to open back up following health guidelines on Monday. Restaurants in those counties will be able to start opening May 18.

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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