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Portland gears up for outdoor dining season

Business owners interested in having a parklet or two have to get a permit approved and abide by the city's rules and regulations.

PORTLAND, Maine — As sunnier days roll along, many restaurants in the "foodie city" of Portland are preparing for outdoor dining season.

Interested businesses have to get an approval permit from the city, first. The city is charging $3,000 for one parklet and $5,000 for two.

Business owners have to follow some rules and regulations as they build their patio decks.

Larry Cushing, a manager at Rosie's Restaurant and Pub, said the money and hard work is worth it.

"It adds a little bit to our seating capacity, which is nice, but what's interesting in the summer is there is nobody inside and everyone outside. But we think it really adds a lot to the city as well to have this outside and enjoy the weather," Cushing said.

"Well we had a very good turnout last year. It was good for the business but also a lot of great feedback from people coming out and saying they really wanted to be outside," Cushing said.

Cushing is working hands-on to get his patio deck ready for the upcoming weekend. He said he most likely will be able to seat more than 20 people.

"Each of the different locations can make a determination of what they want to build," Cushing said. "These are built as a standard deck from a capacity and strength."

"The cost of the parklet covers what the revenue would have been if someone was parking there, and that has obviously a whole set of rules and regulations because of the safety that you are literally in the street right," Jessica Grondin, spokesperson for the city of Portland, said.

Grondin said there won't be as many outdoor seating options this year as last year because city officials have to fully follow code regulations.

"When it comes to state building codes and plumbing codes and life safety, those are rules that were already on the books," Grondin said. "We just relaxed them during COVID, and now we need to follow them again."

Grondin also said the city is allowing more parklets this year.

The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club has two, which will allow for seating up to 35 people.

"Outdoor dining means more seats. More seats means more revenue. More revenue means more jobs," owner Andrew Volk said. "The parklet program that started back in 2019 and has expanded in the past two years has allowed businesses like ours to also have outdoor dining."

"We realized that Portland is still known as a foodie city, and people enjoy all the restaurants that we have that are offered here, and so we certainly want to be supportive of our small business community," Grondin said.

The outdoor dining option program will run until November.

You can find an application for the outdoor dining program here.

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