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With Reopening Delayed, Maine Bars And Tasting Rooms Fear For Their Survival

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press file
In this May 21, 2020 file photo, chairs sit on the bar at Fore Street, a well known restaurant in Portland, Maine.

Industry groups say that some bars and tasting rooms in Maine may not be able to survive, as many must continue to stay closed while COVID-19 numbers surge in the state.

Bars and tasting rooms were originally allowed to reopen to indoor service on Monday, but Gov. Janet Mills postponed that date after the state recorded several of its highest virus case counts in recent days.

Maine Brewers’ Guild Executive Director Sean Sullivan says that while he understands that public health and safety are a top priority, he says some businesses may be unable to survive, particularly as colder weather makes outdoor service more difficult.

“At this time, the small amount of revenue, during closure, or just opened for outdoor tastings, or takeout service, is just not enough to support the business,” he says.

Sullivan says that breweries with restaurant licenses have already been able to reopen for indoor service, but those make up less than half of all breweries.

Greg Dugal, the director of government affairs for HospitalityMaine, says that smaller businesses with limited seating likely won’t be as affected. But he says the new rules could impact larger facilities, such as hotels with dining rooms.

“The larger businesses, that obviously are predicated and based on a level of business that they would not be able to achieve at 50, are going to have a very difficult time of being successful,” he says.

The Mills administration also announced that it was limiting indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people and reinstated quarantine and testing requirements for visitors coming from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Dugal says he was pleased to see that Massachusetts residents can still visit without restrictions, as he says they make up a large percentage of the state’s winter tourism population.