On Monday, Governor Janet Mills announced that she will not allow bars to reopen for indoor service as originally scheduled on July 1st.
Mills attributes her decision to recent outbreaks of COVID-19 linked to bar reopenings in states such as Florida, Idaho, Texas, and Louisiana. Bars are currently open for indoor service in 27 states, according to data from the New York Times. The governor did not clarify the impact of bar reopenings in the 23 other states where these activities have been allowed to resume.
“This was a difficult but necessary decision given the increased public health risk and the outbreaks we have seen across the country associated with indoor service,” Mills said.
Outdoor bar service resumed in Maine’s rural counties on June 12th and in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York counties on June 17th. Mills gave no new opening date for bars, saying they will remain outdoor only “until further notice.”
Mills says that her administration will work with businesses to establish or expand their outdoor seating capacity.
“While we believe this is the most prudent step to protect the health and safety of Maine people, we recognize that it will frustrate some businesses and patrons. The Administration will work with these businesses to help them open for outdoor service to the extent they may be able to do so,” Mills said.
Still, with this decision, bars may move to change their licenses. Earlier this month, four bars in Portland purchased restaurant licenses that allowed them to circumvent state restrictions, highlighting the arbitrary nature of Mills’ linking the state’s reopening with liquor license classifications.
On Monday, Maine reported 14 new cases of the virus, bringing the total confirmed cases to 2,971. In the last two weeks, Maine has averaged 27 new cases per day, compared to an average of 37 new cases per day in the two week period ending June 8th.