A segment of Main Street, which is Route 125, in Lisbon Falls will be closed to vehicles from early July to Labor Day so the town can turn it into an outside dining and community space.

LISBON — Lisbon will close lower Main Street to vehicular traffic for most of the summer to provide an outdoor dining and community gathering space during the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure will start on or around July 2 and continue through Labor Day.

Traffic will be detoured onto School Street, which a year ago saw an average of 4,000 vehicles per day, according to Brett Richardson, the town’s economic and community development director. The detour would add about 1,500 vehicles on School Street if traffic was at pre-pandemic levels.

According to Paul Merrill, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, the downtown section of Main Street has an average traffic count of nearly 4,000 vehicles in 2017, However traffic counts are still down statewide an average of 22%. The department has signed off on the project.

The closure area, dubbed “Moxie Plaza” by Lisbon Development Committee Chair Lisa Ward, encompasses about 4,000 square feet at the intersection of Main Street and Maine Route 196. The area will feature restaurant service during most evenings.

Because the restaurant service won’t start until about 3 p.m., that leaves the area open for other events earlier in the day, said Richardson. The space could be used for pop-up farmers’ markets or a coffee or breakfast cart.

“We don’t want competition with the existing folks down there but outside of that we want to create all kinds of opportunities to use it,” Richardson said. “Artists, painting classes, all of the above.”

The town will work hard to create benefits throughout the community, he said.

“Closing Main Street for the summer to enable social distancing will help Main Street businesses adapt and survive during the current COVID-19 reality, and provide a fun place for the community to gather safely,” Town Manager Diane Barnes said in a news release.

Androscoggin County restaurants had expected to open June 1 to limited indoor dining. But on May 27, Gov. Janet Mills announced she was delaying the reopening of restaurants for dine-in service in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties because of rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Last week she announced all restaurants in the state could open to limited indoor dining again starting June 17.

Maggie Oliver, owner of Eastcraeft, a women’s clothing store on Main Street in Lisbon, said she looks forward to a temporary road closure generating more street traffic over the summer. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

Traci Austin, co-owner of Frank’s Restaurant and Pub on Main Street, said if there is an increase in COVID-19, she believes Mills will shut down indoor dining. Having outdoor seating gives the restaurant an alternative should that happen, as ramping up cubside business would not happen right away.

She estimates overall sales have been reduced by about 70% due to the pandemic and social distancing requirements has cut down her indoor seating capacity by about 75%. The outdoor seating due to the street closure could bring Frank’s up to full capacity, however.

“I’m a Lisbon girl so I really hope that it’s really successful and there seems to be a lot of buzz about what it can be during the day, and then what ti’s able to do for us here on Main Street as far as survival,” Austin said Wednesday, “I think it’s very cool.”

Maggie Oliver of Eastcraeft, a women’s clothing store on Main Street, said she will take advantage of having more people on the street, and will stay open later.

“I will definitely be ramping up the sidewalk sales,” she said.

 

The town of Lisbon will close lower Main Street in Lisbon Falls and re-route traffic down Summer Street. Contributed photo

 

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