PORTLAND — As a part of the extension of the city’s emergency order related to the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants will be able to continue offering outdoor dining into spring.

The City Council Monday unanimously decided to allow restaurants to offer al fresco dining until May 10. The council’s Economic Development and Housing Committee was scheduled to discuss the future of outdoor dining beyond May 10 at its Jan. 5 meeting after the Portland Forecaster’s deadline.

Outdoor dining typically is only permitted by the city until November, but that was initially extended to Jan. 4 with the goal of helping restaurants continue to serve those who are not comfortable with indoor dining.

City Manager Jon Jennings said there had been concern about winter outdoor dining setups hindering the city’s ability to clear streets and sidewalks after snowstorms. A Dec. 17 storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on the city, however, proved that snow removal is still possible.

“They do provide some challenge in terms of us plowing, but we found that if we can manage it through a 17-inch snowstorm, we would be able to manage it going forward,” he said.

Jennings said while some of the 57 business that held permits for outdoor dining through Jan. 4 have decided to no longer offer the service, many others are interested in keeping it going.

“It is imperative, in my opinion, to do everything we can to help our businesses navigate this very difficult time,” he said.

Councilor Spencer Thibodeau is happy to support the extension.

“The decisions the manager, staff and council have adopted have saved people’s livelihood,” he said.

Councilor Andrew Zarro thanked the city for the work it has done to help the small business community survive the pandemic by offering grants, personal protective equipment and allowing more outdoor retail, which may be the new norm for a lot of places.

“A lot of us have forever changed our business model and we are now looking at what our local economy can do and can achieve and a lot of that can be from outdoors,” said Zarro, who owns Little Woodfords, a coffee shop on the corner of Congress and Franklin streets.

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