Lisa Kaldrovich, pictured here with her husband, Mitchell Kaldrovich, says their Gorham restaurant, MK Kitchen, has been offering takeout service as allowed under state pandemic guidelines, but demand for that has been falling off. The town Tuesday said all businesses in town are allowed to fully reopen with health precautions in place.

GORHAM — The Town Council declared Tuesday it was open for business and allowed all types of Gorham establishments to reopen, bucking state restrictions saying otherwise.

Citing an expected “significant decline” in revenue from loss of businesses because of the state-ordered coronavirus pandemic shutdowns and the potential of cutting town services as a result, the council approved Councilor Benjamin Hartwell’s non-binding resolution.

The resolution said the town has “been diligent in taking the prescribed precautions to utilize social distancing and limit social gatherings to the prescribed numbers” and urges Gov. Janet Mills to delegate reopening plans to local communities.

Hartwell

“The Town Council goes on the record to allow any business in Gorham that wish to open, permission to do so,” the resolution declares.

All businesses in Gorham “are essential to our community,”  Hartwell said Tuesday.

Two businesses in the Village,  Gorham Yoga and Grit and Grace Crossfit, have already folded, and “many others are barely able to hang on,” Hartwell said.

Town Council Chairman Suzanne Phillips said the town’s resolution is a message to Gov. Janet Mills and surrounding communities. But, Phillips warned: “Business owners could face consequences from the state.”

Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said the resolution is not an executive order directing businesses to reopen.

A spokesman for Maine Municipal Association, an organization supporting local governments throughout the state, told the Portland Press Herald that it hasn’t adopted a position on resolutions of this nature. But broadly speaking, MMA is advising towns and cities to follow state health guidelines.

Under state guidelines, all retail stores can now open, with customer limits based on square footage and other restrictions, but restaurants and bars in Cumberland County are permitted to open only for outdoor dining. Reopening dates for fitness centers to allow customers inside, nail salons and other services are expected to be announced this month.

The Town Council approved the resolution 6-1 with Councilor Janet Kuech opposed. Kuech said that while she supports local businesses, the resolution carries no legal authority.

“I can’t support the resolution as it stands,” Kuech said.

Councilor Lee Pratt said the resolution encourages businesses and lets them know “going out of business is not an option.”

Pratt successfully proposed an amendment to the resolution that businesses must adhere to CDC guidelines.

Several business people and other residents called into the Tuesday’s meeting, held via Zoom.

Jon Smith, owner of Great Falls Construction and Station Square on Railroad Avenue, hoped the board would favor the resolution.

“Businesses are at the end of their rope,” Smith said.

Lisa Kaldrovich, owner of MK Kitchen, said the restaurant has been offering take out food service, but patronage is declining.

Dining-in approval for restaurants in Cumberland and two other counties was scheduled for June 1 but was delayed last week.

“We were supposed to be allowed to open,” Kaldrovich said.

Jesse Coleman, owner of My-Fit-24,  said his gym is “perfectly” safe.

“Partial opening is unsustainable,” he said.

Karen Nason, owner of Grand Central Wine Bar on Railroad Avenue who returned to her Gorham hometown last year to open the business, also urged the council to pass the resolution.

Objecting to the resolution, resident James Brockman said it encourages businesses in Gorham to violate the governor’s orders. Brockman also wondered whether the town could be exposed to liability.

But another resident, Mark Curtis, said he’s “super proud” of the Town Council for bringing the resolution forward. Curtis said budgets would be severely impacted if there are no businesses in town.

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