William Tompkins, left, of Portland high-fives his friend Gary Fumicello of Kennebunk after Tompkins picked up a spare at the Big 20 Bowling Center in Scarborough on March 17, just before all but essential businesses were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bowling alleys are among the businesses that are allowed to let customers in starting July 1 in the third phase of the state’s reopening plan. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Some of the last businesses to remain closed under state orders have been given the green light by the Mills administration to welcome customers back next month.

Spas, amusement and water parks, bowling alleys, movie theaters and performing arts venues will be allowed to reopen July 1 if they follow the state’s COVID-19 prevention checklists released Wednesday. Businesses are still limited to only 50 people in enclosed spaces, the state’s gathering limit.

Those businesses are included in Phase Three of Gov. Janet Mills’ reopening plan, the final stage of statewide economic reopening. The vast majority of public-facing businesses in Maine can now serve customers in some form.

However, there are strict limits on how businesses operate to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

“The increasing, and in some instances record high, number of COVID-19 cases in other states are cautionary tales for Maine as we continue our reopening, monitor the prevalence of the virus here, and look towards our economic recovery,” Mills said in a statement. “Nothing would be more devastating to our economy than a significant surge in the virus that sickens and kills more people and jeopardizes our health care capacity.”

Maine is on par or ahead of other northeastern states in its reopening plan, according to the Mills administration. Adjusted for population, the state has the eighth lowest rank in the country in terms of positive COVID-19 cases and 11th lowest rank in terms of deaths, the state said.


Some businesses are still curtailed. Indoor service in bars and tasting rooms and breweries and distilleries were delayed this week following virus outbreaks related to those confined spaces in other states.

Indoor entertainment like bowling alleys and movie theaters are safer to reopen than indoor seating at bars because groups of people are generally farther apart from each other, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a news conference Wednesday.

“The duration of activities at a bar, movie theater and bowling alley may be about the same, but the density of the activity is much less” in the latter venues Shah said.

A checklist for the state’s two casinos, in Oxford and Bangor, is pending and it is unclear if they will be allowed to reopen on July 1.

“We are in active discussions with the casinos,” Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson said at the briefing. “Their checklists are very specific as you would expect given the work that they do.”

Many of the Phase Three guidelines are familiar – stepped up sanitation, physical distancing, required face coverings, signage and reminders. But the nature of indoor venues adds more wrinkles for businesses preparing to reopen.


A statewide prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people remains in effect for those businesses allowed to open next week. Cinemas need to limit the number of people per enclosed theater to 50 and limit seating to allow for at least 6 feet between household groups by requiring empty seats and limiting seating to every other row.

Indoor performing arts venues are similarly restricted to 50 people in each shared space. Stages and audience spaces are considered separate if there is at least 14 feet between the stage and the closest audience member.

Seating guidelines also encourage seating and exiting auditoriums by section to reduce overcrowding and leaving 6 feet between household groups. General admission venues should use high-visibility floor markings or other barriers to designate six-foot distances, according to the state.

It also suggested using no-touch ticketing, limiting performance length and eliminating intermissions.

“Even with fewer people attending events due to gathering limits, intermission may have to be longer than before to allow time for physically distanced patron movement,” the guidelines state. “Given these issues, including how to let some patrons out of a row while others remain seated, shorter shows with no intermission are encouraged.”

Indoor theaters and venues are further instructed to improve ventilation and increase the percentage of outdoor air and increase the total airflow supply to occupied spaces.

Outdoor amusement, such as amusement and water parks are required to take similar physical distancing and sanitation measures and limit shared spaces – one contained area with a controlled entrance and exit – to 50 people. Total occupancy across “distinct areas of an outdoor venue should not exceed 25 percent of regular occupancy,” the guidelines state.

A Department of Economic and Community Development spokeswoman did not respond to questions intended to clarify the wording of the guidelines and give a clear example of how the guidelines would be implemented.

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