A waitress takes an order at an Old Town restaurant in this BDN file photo. A lawmaker from Biddeford wants to make it easier for restaurants to serve alcohol outside in "non-contiguous" spaces. Credit: MICHAEL C. YORK

Maine state Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, has proposed a piece of legislation designed to support the restaurant industry and it’s ability to serve alcohol.

According to a news release from the Senate Democratic Office, Deschambault, who represents District 32 — Biddeford, Alfred, Arundel, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman — was prompted to introduce a bill after a constituent brought to her attention how restaurants are impacted in the warmer months due to an inability to serve alcohol to customers seated in outside spaces that are “non-contiguous with the restaurant itself.”

“In Maine, where the restaurant industry is affected by seasonal demand, restaurateurs often seek to expand their capacity during the busier, warmer months,” the press release stated. “For many restaurants, that means opening additional seating outdoors, including on sidewalks or in parking spaces owned by the restaurants.”

Under the new bill, towns and cities would be able to pass ordinances to allow restaurants to put tables in parking spots or non-contiguous areas to the restaurant itself, and allow waiting staff to serve alcohol to those outside guests.

“This bill will allow restaurants to expand their business during the busy summer season,” Deschambault said in the newsrelease. “More and more people are eating meals out these days and we should help our local restaurants capture that potential business.

“Biddeford Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson and I talked about this and he said ‘it’s pretty silly that a waiter or waitress can’t go from the restaurant, take two steps outside, and serve a customer a drink,’” Deschambault said in a phone call.

She added the bill would leave power in the hands of Maine cities and towns in terms of allowing alcohol to be served to a non-contiguous area of a restaurant.

“It’s enabling legislation, it doesn’t mean it could apply to every restaurant,” Deschambault said. “Saco could say ‘no we don’t want restaurants serving drinks outside on our beautiful Main Street,’ but Biddeford could say ‘we’ll we’ve been thinking of slowing down traffic in our downtown, and this sounds like a good way to boost our downtown economy and restaurants industry.’”

Deschambault stressed that the bill may take some time to make it’s way through the Maine Legislative body — the bill must pass through the Legislative Council in order to be revisited in January — but she remained hopeful that the law will be passed sooner than later.

“I do think that I have the votes needed,” she said.

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