On Monday, Governor Janet Mills announced that restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York counties may offer dine-in services beginning Wednesday, June 17. They will join restaurants in Maine’s 13 other counties, which have been able to fully reopen under new health and safety guidelines since May 18th.
Mills attributes her decision to a plateauting of new cases in recent weeks, as well as the stabilization of hospital rates in the three counties.
“Maine people and businesses have worked hard to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and the stabilization of cases and hospitalizations in York, Cumberland, and Androscoggin counties help demonstrate that,” Mills said.
Restaurants that reopen are required to follow Maine’s COVID-19 prevention checklist, which includes health and safety measures such as spaced tables and plexiglass barriers. Many businesses within the industry have stated they would implement these measures regardless of state requirements to do so.
“This pandemic is not over. As we reopen restaurants for indoor dining and other businesses in these areas, we remain vigilant,” Mills said.
The new order also allows bars, breweries, and tasting rooms in the three counties to serve customers outdoors beginning Wednesdays. Gyms, nail salons, and tattoo parlors may also reopen with added health and safety protocols.
Restaurants in the three counties were originally slated to fully reopen June 1st. However, Gov. Mills delayed their opening for indoor dining just days before, causing outrage among restaurant owners who were preparing to reopen.
A group of around 50 restaurant owners, who gathered outside of Mike’s Clam Shack in late May, said that they would give the governor until June 15th to make a decision regarding the reopening of restaurants. If no announcement was made, they would take it upon themselves to reopen.
While the Mills administration said they “do not respond to ultimatums,” the new order comes on the deadline provided by the restaurant owners.
The administration may have also felt pressure from other restaurants in southern Maine. Last week, four restaurant owners near county borders sued Mills over restrictive reopening measures while a Freeport restaurant owner got his license suspended for serving customers indoors.
As of June 16th, there are 485 probable active cases in Maine, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control. There have been 2,499 confirmed cases in total.