Portland restaurants may be allowed to continue outdoor dining until at least Jan. 2 if a plan being developed by the city comes to fruition.

City Manager Jon Jennings presented the Portland City Council with a memo Monday night outlining a plan that would allow Portland restaurants with temporary outdoor dining licenses that expire Nov. 1 to remain open until Nov. 15, the date that’s on licenses issued before the pandemic threw a wrench into the restaurant business. The street closures allowed this summer would also remain in effect until Nov. 15.

“Given the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic hardship experienced by many dining and retail establishments during what is normally their busiest season, I plan to extend the permits and street closures through November 15, 2020,” Jennings wrote. “This will align the expiration of the temporary permits and streets closures with the outdoor dining and sidewalk sale permits that many businesses already had under our existing ordinance.”

The closure of sections of Exchange Street has allowed restaurants to offer more outdoor dining during the pandemic. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Portland has issued 135 temporary licenses for outdoor dining and sidewalk sales.

The city is still studying whether and how to keep outdoor dining going until Jan. 2, said Jessica Grondin, director of communications for the city of Portland. City staff is preparing a more detailed plan that will be presented to the council for a vote on Oct. 19.

Among the issues they’re considering is who will be responsible for snow removal at restaurants that stay open deeper into winter. Some restaurants have said they could be responsible for snow removal around their outdoor dining areas, Grondin said. In cases where city plows remove the snow, the city wants to be sure that outdoor dining structures such as parklets won’t be damaged, she said.

Grondin said the city will also have to consult with restaurants about how they plan to keep diners warm. “There’s going to have to be some review, depending on what’s proposed for any structures, just because if they’re going to heat the structure obviously we’re going to need to inspect that and be sure it’s not a fire hazard,” she said. “Some of them are suggesting that they would add heaters or enclosures of some sort.”

Gov. Janet Mills’ announcement Tuesday that restaurants may now move to 50 percent capacity may change things, Grondin said – not with what the city is planning, but with the number of restaurants that will be interested in extending outdoor dining into January.

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