Danielle and John Zhu of California dine outside at Duckfat in Portland on Tuesday. The restaurant plans to have a heated outdoor waiting area for takeout customers this winter. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Nancy Pugh, co-owner of Duckfat on Middle Street, was happy to hear that the Portland City Council on Monday night approved extended outdoor dining until Jan. 4.

But she won’t be adding more outdoor seating at her small restaurant. Instead, she hopes to use the parking lane outside Duckfat for one or more covered and heated seating areas that would help enhance the takeout operation, keeping customers warm and dry while they wait for their food. That would in turn free up two indoor tables where she could serve customers safely without having to worry about them being too close to a takeout line.

But Pugh also wants to explore other options, including holding special events – a winter carnival, perhaps, or a snow bar – and asking the city to allow the outdoor areas to operate until spring.

“I don’t see one thing being the solution,” Pugh said. “I see it as being creative.”

The city’s plan allows restaurants and retailers to operate through Jan. 4 on private property, public sidewalks and in parking lanes. Businesses must apply for permits, but the city will waive the fees.

Over the summer and fall, Duckfat has served customers under a big tent in the southbound lane of Middle Street, part of which has been closed to traffic. The restaurant has not reopened for indoor dining because its small capacity means it’s neither safe nor worth it financially.


Server Anna Ayotte brings food to a table under the tent at Duckfat in Portland on Tuesday. At the table are Nick and Linda Cashman of Hampton, N.J. The tent will have to come down when streets reopen to traffic Nov. 1, but the city will continue to allow some outdoor dining options. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

But all city streets that have been closed will reopen Nov. 1, with the exception of Dana Street (from Fore Street to Wharf Street) and Wharf Street (from Union Street to Dana Street). Middle Street businesses may continue to use parking lanes.

Pugh said Duckfat already has two sidewalk tables that are enclosed to protect customers from the weather, but that alone is not enough to keep the restaurant open in the long term. Neither is takeout, although she hopes that by enhancing the takeout system with outdoor waiting areas she can “create a little more revenue and make it a little less of a blow.”

Pugh said the restaurant installed a new air filtration system three weeks ago to make staff and customers feel more comfortable being inside. Jay Villani did the same at Salvage BBQ on Congress Street, where outdoor dining has so far been a bust because of the noise and dust from construction going on across the street at Maine Medical Center.

Villani set up a big tent over the summer, but few customers have been using it. So recently he spent $1,600 to add an indoor air sanitizing system similar to those found in hospitals, nursing homes and restaurants, and is considering doing the same at his other Portland restaurants, Local 188 and Black Cow.

Restaurants on Middle Street including Eventide were serving customers outdoors Tuesday, with temperatures in the 50s. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“Is it foolproof? No. But will it help? I think it will help,” he said. “I think it’s more about making people feel comfortable and getting people adjusted to a new normal.”

Villani said he will probably leave his tent up until Jan. 4 for whomever wants to use it, but he doesn’t expect many takers.


He said that with just eight to 10 indoor tables he’s not making any profit, “but I’m not hemorrhaging as much money at this point.”

“Our next goal is just to make it until springtime,” he said. “Let’s just get to April.”

At the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club on Exchange Street, there will be no indoor dining through the end of the year. Owners Briana and Andrew Volk were among those pushing the city to allow extended outdoor dining, and they plan to take advantage of it by being as creative as possible – at least until Dec. 31, when they will close for the winter and work on building a small store inside the restaurant that will sell to-go cocktails, tinned fish, wines and snacks.

Tables are set up on Middle Street in Portland for outdoor dining. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The Volks’ wintertime outdoor restaurant – seven tables, spaced 6 feet apart – will feature large canvas umbrellas with open sides for ventilation. They are having custom wool blankets made and are ordering insulated mugs for table-side hot cocktails. The menu will be tweaked to focus on “warm and cozy food.” There will even be a spot where customers can park their skis or hang their snowshoes.

“Mainers know how to dress in the winter,” Volk said. “We’ve all done this before. People are going to be cozy, and it’s going to be warm. They’re going to feel really comfortable in the space, and it’s going to be safe for everyone. ”

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