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Business and Economy

Southern Maine Businesses See Strong Demand Upon Reopening

Robert F. Bukaty
AP Images
Kevin Norsworthy, State Theater's "marquee master," puts a new message outside the venue, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in Portland, Maine.

Some businesses in southern Maine say they are seeing strong demand as they reopen after being closed for months because of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, nail salons, gyms and tattoo parlors were allowed to reopen in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin Counties, which have seen the most COVID-19 cases in the state. Restaurants in the counties can also reopen to dine-in customers, and tasting rooms and bars can open for outdoor service.

Nancy Nguyen, who owns Get Nailed Beauty Lounge in Portland, says she was frustrated when the state initially said nail salons could open June 1, but then delayed the reopening because of concerns around community transmission. Nguyen says she was not sure if customers would still want to book appointments because of those worries, but, so far, demand has been strong.

"Oh my goodness, we posted that we were open yesterday, and now I'm booked for the month of June," she says. "People are booking into July. I have clients booking into the fall, as well."

At the Gridiron Restaurant and Sports Pub in Lewiston, owner Schan Martin says he was excited to reopen to dine-in customers on Wednesday morning after months of uncertainty. Martin says the pub looks very different, with only six stools at the bar instead of 20, and a new outdoor dining area underneath a tent, which opened earlier this month. While Martin says it cost about $20,000 to transition to the new set-up, he's optimistic that it will allow him to stay afloat.

“I can see it working and being a decent thing. I'm hoping to be able to get, between indoor and outdoor, back to about 75 percent, which is doable and livable.”

But Martin remains concerned about a potential "second wave" of the virus that could force the business to shut down again.

Some businesses say that getting employees to come back has been difficult. Some remain concerned about potential exposure and continue to receive unemployment benefits.

Similar businesses in other parts of the state were allowed to reopen last Friday.

Updated 3:04 p.m. June 18, 2020: A previous version of this post used a picture of shops in Camden, Maine.