Joshua Miranda owns a bar in the Old Port that also serves food. He was planning to open an Italian restaurant a few blocks over, too, before the coronavirus pandemic hit and put everything on hold for three months.

Then, on Monday, Gov. Janet Mills announced that restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties will be allowed to resume indoor dining service on Wednesday. Bars, breweries and tasting rooms in those counties also will be permitted to open that day for outdoor, seated service.

After the announcement, Miranda’s phone blew up with calls from friends in the industry.

“There were some people grumbling ‘Why couldn’t she give us more notice?’ and I’m like ‘Shut up,’” he said, joking. “I’m grateful, and hopeful we can still salvage some of the season.”

Southern Maine restaurant owners contacted Monday were mostly encouraged by the news that they can serve diners indoors again, but not all will be able to seat people right away. Staffing appears to be one issue, even in cases where the restaurant already has reopened for outdoor dining.

“Oh wow, that’s great,” Jared Dinsmore, who co-owns Bird & Co. in Portland’s Deering neighborhood, said when he heard the news.


Dinsmore said he and chef/co-owner Wills Dowd have already hired all of their staff back, and have been offering the restaurant’s full menu for takeout and outdoor dining. But the restaurateurs are nervous about adding tables indoors without hiring more staff first. A new parklet and deck porch outside “pretty much doubled our seating,” Dowd said.

Dowd said he has interviews scheduled all day Tuesday, but it could be a week or more before they are ready to seat people indoors. He anticipates being open for sure by July 1.

“We’re chomping at the bit to get back open,” Dinsmore said.

Getting more workers on board is also an issue for Miranda. “It’s not as easy as turning the key at Blyth,” he said, adding that he’ll also need to hire and train more staff to work in the kitchen of his new Italian restaurant, Via Vecchia.

Dave McConnell, owner of Three of Strong Spirits, a rum distillery in East Bayside, says he will keep to the July 1 opening date despite the announcement by Gov. Janet Mills that restaurants, bars and tasting rooms in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties can resume indoor service on Wednesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Miranda plans to open the front bar at Blyth & Burrows Wednesday through Sunday to see how it goes, and Via Vecchia will open sometime within the next two weeks.

Deen Haleem, owner of 300-seat Tiqa on Commercial Street in Portland, said he had already prepared the restaurant to open June 1, before Mills postponed the return of indoor dining. “I’ve purchased more hand sanitizer in the past month than I have food,” he said.


Haleem said he can get food delivered in a day. But he needs more staff to start seating people indoors – servers, bartenders, line cooks, dishwashers and hosts.

“The staffing piece is probably the hardest part,” Haleem said. “We recalled all of our staff, and I have four (job) postings out right now.”

Outdoor dining has been so popular he’s had to turn people away or ask customers to wait for a table, which he sees as a sign that the public is ready to come back to restaurants.

“I think they’ve been bouncing off the walls,” Haleem said. “I think they’ve been ready to get out and see other human beings and stop watching Netflix.”

People eat outdoors at Central Provisions on Dana Street in Portland on Monday. Restaurants can resume indoor dining Wednesday, but Central Provisions plans to continue focusing on outdoor dining and will not open up indoors yet. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

David Cluff, owner of Duffy’s Tavern & Grill in Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach, said he will open Wednesday, but is running into staffing issues because some of his employees had already made plans for the weekend and can’t work. That’s the problem, he said, with just two days’ notice.

I’m not complaining,” he quickly clarified. “By far, I’m not complaining.”


Not everyone is planning to reopen just yet. Chef Chris Gould, who owns Central Provisions and Tipo in Portland, had not yet heard about Mills’ announcement when he was contacted by a reporter, but said he’s “not really interested in doing that.”

“It’s mostly, from our point of view, to protect our staff and our guests,” he said. “That might change in a couple of weeks, but as of right now we have no plans on opening indoor dining.”

Gould said he’s been focused in recent weeks on getting takeout and outdoor dining set up at his restaurants. He’s expanding the existing patio at Tipo, and spent all last week creating a 40- to 45-seat patio on Dana Street – complete with string lights, picnic tables and standing room space at wine barrels – for Central Provisions. That patio just opened Saturday.

“I’m focusing on what I can control right now,” Gould said, “and that was getting outside dining set up and getting the takeout set up. It’s been a lot to get those up and going, with systems for those two things that we’ve never done before.”

Patrons sit at tables on Wharf Street in Portland on Monday. Some restaurants have invested in adapting to outdoor service and plan to keep making it their priority this summer.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

He doesn’t yet foresee a time when Central Provisions will seat customers indoors because the restaurant “is so small, it’s not really worth it.”

“We would be able to have, like, four tables and then we would have to put some sort of plexiglass around the kitchen and bar,” Gould said. “I don’t see that. Maybe if we get to October and people don’t want to sit outside anymore and we’ve got to figure something else out. If we’re still in the same kind of limbo we are right now, then maybe it’s a different story.”


Rob Evans, owner of Duckfat in Portland, said now that Middle Street is closed and the restaurant can have outdoor seating under a tent, he’s pushed off thinking about indoor dining until sometime this fall. His restaurant is so small it just doesn’t make sense to reopen indoors with social distancing requirements.

“Larger restaurants might feel different, but no matter which way you slice it a restaurant at 50 percent during the summer in Maine is a tough place to be,” Evans said. “For ourselves, we hope by November the science says we can all hang out and eat together again.”

Some tasting rooms and breweries also plan to take their time reopening, including Allagash Brewing Co., said Jill Perry, senior manager of retail operations and merchandise.

“We are taking a pretty conservative approach to reopening,” she said. “Our plan is to keep offering curbside pick-up and a new walk-up service.”

Three of Strong Spirits, a rum distillery in Portland, has decided to stick with the original target opening date of July 1 for its tasting room, owner Dave McConnell said. He said it wouldn’t be possible to turn things around in just two days.

But, he added, the decision to open earlier “makes sense to me.”

“I think my reaction all along has been I’m glad I’m not the governor,” McConnell said, “because trying to balance the science with the economic pressures that I know she’s facing, sometimes competing pressures, is a really hard thing.”

Staff Writer Emma Sorkin contributed to this report.

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