WINDHAM — The Town Council Tuesday unanimously agreed to make it easier for restaurants and retail stores to provide service outside.

“(This would) expedite the ability for our restaurants (and retail) to comply with the COVID-19 requirements for spacing,” Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday she was delaying restaurant dine-in services in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties, which were set to begin on June 1. According to the revised rules, restaurants can only offer outdoor dining.

Once inside dining is allowed, there will be a capacity limit of 50 people and coronavirus safety protocols will be required, including that customers be 6 feet apart.

To allow for adequate social distancing, Windham establishments will be able to move some of their seating and merchandise outside after they receive a change of use permit from the town. The measure approved Tuesday streamlines that permitting process and waives the associated fees through through Oct. 31.

Councilor David Nadeau asked whether this would allow marijuana stores to sell their products outside, but Planning Director Amanda Lessard said that those businesses fall under a different retail designation, and this process would not apply to them.

“I think it’s good that Windham is trying to address that knowing there are a lot of restrictions from the state. I hope that other towns in our region take notice,” said Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

The streamlined process and fee waivers do not apply to current Maine Liquor Licenses, wrote WEDC Executive Director Tom Bartell in a press release on Wednesday morning. Restaurants would need to apply separately to allow liquor sales in any new seating areas.

The normal change of use permit fee is $50 for restaurants and $100 for retail stores.

The measure was a joint effort between the Town Council, the Windham Economic Development Corporation and the Planning and Code Enforcement departments to help local businesses adjust to state regulations for COVID-19.

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