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PORTLAND, Maine — On Saturday, a hospitality industry advocacy group in Camden posted on their social media feed Saturday that they’d be purchasing gift cards from local restaurants, bakeries, hotels and inns and giving them away for free “in hopes that the public will still go out and eat.”
The post was tagged #MaineHospitalityUnited, but not everyone thought the message was a good idea.
“[H]ey! Big fan of you all and the industry (income relies on it!) but maybe let’s *not* encourage folks to go out and eat?” one user commented.
The exchange illustrates the balancing act that restaurant owners and industry advocates in the state are facing. For Maine’s hospitality industry — and the workers who derive their incomes from it — many are juggling an interest to boost consumer confidence while also safeguarding their workers and guests against the spread of the coronavirus.
The directives from state leaders have offered only so much clarity. Gov. Janet Mills advised Thursday to limit gatherings of more than 250 people, a limit that the majority of dining rooms in Maine restaurants don’t approach. Mills amended that advisory on Sunday night, recommending limiting public gatherings to 50 people, and 10 if they include high-risk individuals like people over 60 or those with compromised immune systems.
But many restaurants in the state have dining room capacities that exceed 50 people. Mills said Sunday that she’s “not ready to shut down the restaurant [and bar] industry” in Maine.
As of Sunday, more than a dozen restaurants in Maine’s largest city have set up takeout, delivery and curbside drive-through services over the last few days, hoping to soften the financial hit as the coronavirus arrives in Maine.