This year, Red’s Eats, a lobster roll landmark in Wiscasset, will open for business on Saturday, May 30. Photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

WISCASSET — Red’s Eats, a summer staple in downtown Wiscasset, will open on Saturday, May 30, but necessary social distancing due to COVID-19 could produce more traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, around the establishment than usual.

The takeout seafood shack on the corner of Main and Water streets typically draws long lines of hungry tourists that stretch around the corner onto Route 1. Debbie Gagnon, one of the owners, said she will be marking the sidewalk to ensure customers remain six feet apart while they wait to order their lobster rolls.

“We will be practicing social distancing with marked spots for waiting guests, signage and touchless hand sanitizer,” said Gagnon. “I have added an additional counter to the front of Red’s Eats so that our guests are at least six feet away from the person taking orders.”

Gagnon’s safety measures aren’t limited to customers. She said she will screen her employees before they start their shift by taking their temperatures and having them sign a form stating they’re not experiencing symptoms. They’ll also be required to wear masks and gloves.

“I am proud that 11 of my staff are ServSafe certified,” said Gagnon, referring to a food safety training and certificate program administered by the U.S. National Restaurant Association. “We’ve always cared about food safety. All orders will be in takeaway containers, [with] single-serve condiments.”

Gagnon said she usually opens mid-April but she doesn’t know how many customers she typically sees on opening weekend.

According to annual traffic data gathered by the Maine Department of Transportation, 19,530 cars drove through downtown Wiscasset past Red’s Eats each day in 2017.

Chip Davison, chairman of the Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce, said two new traffic lights and crosswalks at the Water and Middle streets intersections, which were activated in March, may help the traffic flow that notoriously slows to a crawl along Route 1.

The signals are designed to remain green unless someone pushes a pedestrian crossing button or side street traffic on Water Street, Middle Street, or Route 27 triggers the signal sensors. Previously traffic would be forced to stop when a pedestrian stepped into the road. With the electronic walk signals, cars no longer need to yield to pedestrians who now must wait until they’re told to walk.

“The traffic backup in Wiscasset in the summer is notorious,” MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill told a Times Record reporter in March. “These new signals should greatly reduce the backups during the summer months. We think it will be a big improvement and make the entire area safer.”

Davison said he didn’t know if the traffic and the line at Red’s Eats will grow as long as they do during the height of tourism season considering Gov. Janet Mills’ requirement that out-of-state visitors self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive to stem the spread of COVID-19, but he said hopes customers remain patient with one another and staff members.

“We deal with long lines at Walmart, Home Depot, and other local stores,” he said. “Everyone in this situation has to have kindness and patience this year. We need to make sure people around us are staying safe.”

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