Kerry and Dom Cassone enjoy an appetizer at Cowbell Burger Bar in Biddeford on Wednesday, June 17, when restaurants were given the green light to open for dine-in service. Tammy Wells Photo

Kerry and Dom Cassone of Northboro, Massachusetts, had been vacationing at Pine Point, and like others, had been enjoying takeout meals — until  Wednesday, June 17, when they walked into Cowbell Burger Bar on Main Street in Biddeford and sat at a table.

“It feels great,” to enjoy a meal inside, said Kerry Cassone, as the couple tried a deep-fried pickle appetizer.

It felt great too for Alex Markakis, one of the owners of the business. When he learned the restaurant could offer dine-in service,  as well as its patio venue, “I jumped up in the air,” he said.

“It feels like Christmas,” said Markakis, whose nearby Sublime Taco, also opened for dine-in as well as patio service.

Although dining indoors is allowed, restaurants must follow state restrictions — like social distancing, a maximum of 50 diners in a room, frequent sanitizing, and more.

Down the road a few miles, at French Nail Spa in Kennebunk, owner Paul Huynh carefully applied a clear coat of polish on Phyllis Vaccaro’s nails. A plastic barrier separated the two, with an opening at the bottom so her hands could be presented for a manicure. Both the client and the nail technician were wearing masks. In the pedicure section, plastic shields had also been installed.

French Nail Spa, along with other nail salons, restaurants, gyms and tattoo parlors were given the go-ahead to open June 17 by Gov. Janet Mills. The nail salons and tattoo establishments had all been closed since mid-March. Gyms were closed too, though some, like Spurling Fitness in Kennebunk, offered online classes for their members.

Phyllis Vaccaro enjoys a manicure by owner Paul Huynh at French Nail Spa in Kennebunk on Thursday, June 18, the day after the state allowed salons to open. Tammy Wells Photo

“I’m so happy to be back,” said Vaccaro, of Lyman, as Huynh deftly applied polish on her nails. “As long as he’s open, I’m here.”

“I couldn’t wait to be open,” said Huynh, who has owned the spa for 11 years. Opening day, he said, had been really busy.

At Spurling Fitness, Melanie Smith, the director of client experience, said in the first couple of days after opening, the gym had seen more than 50 percent of its members come through the door. “A handful say they’ll wait a week or two, but overwhelmingly, we’ve had a good response,” said Smith.

Herbert Joy Jr. enjoys scallops and fries at Lucky Loggers Landing in Saco, one day after restaurants were allowed to offer dine-in service for the first time since mid-March. Tammy Wells Photo

She said all training sessions are by appointment, leaving time for sanitizing in the newly refurbished center.

Online classes were offered when the gym was closed, which meant clients could still “get together” for workouts. Smith said the online workouts will continue.

“We realized it was an added bonus for a lot of clients,” she said, “Yes, you want to be at the gym, but if you’re stuck at work, or busy with the kids, you can do a workout at home.”

Restaurants in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties were initially expected to be able to offer dine-in service June 1, but Gov. Janet Mills postponed the opening, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases, but did authorize outside service to complement takeout and curbside  service. Then, 2 1/2 weeks later, she OK’d inside dining.

And even though it is now allowed, outside dining remains an option offered by many establishments.

Owner Mike D’Amico pauses by a hand sanitizing station on the patio at Mike’s American Diner in Arundel on June 18, the day after Maine allowed York County restaurants to offer dine-in service. Tammy Wells Photo

Mike D’Amico, who owns Mike’s American Diner in Arundel and Mike’s All Day Breakfast in Kennebunk, said outside, deck dining has become very popular at the diner. He recently cut the ribbon on the outside deck of Mike’s All Day Breakfast.

“People want to eat outside,” he said.

Others apparently agree. Village Tavern in West Kennebunk offers dining in its screened-in patio, Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport offers tented and inside dining as does  Alisson’s — whose owners have forged an arrangement with the Kennebunkport Inn, where a tent and patio make up Alisson’s On the Hill. The inn is closed at present.

Back in Arundel, Mike’s American Diner is open for inside dining too, with six tables, in keeping with social distancing and other state rules. Key to inside dining, along with sanitizing, D’Amico said, is air exchange.

“You need to keep air flowing,” he said, so even though air conditioning is operating, the doors are open.

In Saco, Herbert Joy Jr. of Old Orchard Beach was enjoying scallops and fries at Lucky Logger’s Landing — his first inside restaurant meal since mid-March. The Korean War veteran is a regular — he’s been dining here for about 30 years, the same amount of time as Diane Porter has been a server.

Village Tavern in West Kennebunk recently completed screening in its patio seating area. Dan King photo

Lucky Loggers Landing continues to offer takeout, but now, inside dining is available too.

“The response has been positive,” said Porter.

Markakis, who owns $5 Finns and Martini’s on Main, was also looking forward to July 1, when Maine’s bars were to open for inside consumption. On Monday however, Mills announced indoor bar openings would be delayed.

She said the action follows recent reports of COVID-19 outbreaks linked to the reopening of bars in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Idaho.

“This was a difficult but necessary decision, given the increased public health risk and the outbreaks we have seen across the country associated with indoor service,” said Mills.“While we believe this is the most prudent step to protect the health and safety of Maine people, we recognize that it will frustrate some businesses and patrons.”

Mills said the administration would work with businesses to help them open for outdoor service.

Direct of Client Experience Melanie Smith said in the first couple of days after reopening, Spurling Fitness had more than 50 percent of its members come through the door. Dan King photo

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