As of 11 a.m. Monday, March 16, eight Maine residents have been confirmed positive and nine others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s largest city will mandate a curfew at bars, restaurants and other gathering sites beginning on St. Patrick’s Day in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the county that has the most positive cases.
The curfew in Portland will go into effect as part of an emergency proclamation from 6 a.m. Tuesday until 2 a.m. the following day. A different curfew will go into effect daily from Wednesday through Saturday prohibiting gatherings from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Portland’s move was the strongest response by Maine city to the coronavirus pandemic so far. Maine has announced 17 likely cases of the virus in total since Thursday, with the Maine Center of Disease Control and Prevention saying 13 of them are in Cumberland County.
“This is in light of the need to practice social distancing in order to lessen community spread and flatten out the curve for COVID-19, the global pandemic,” City Manager Jon Jennings told reporters Monday.
Jennings said that the all-day curfew was intended to curb St. Patrick’s Day gatherings, but stressed that restaurants are still able to sell food via takeout and delivery. The announcement is the strongest advisory yet for Maine restaurants to switch from dine-in to takeout and delivery.
The curfew will be enforced by police, and individuals and establishments who violate it would be subject to fines of $500 per day. Jennings said that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations would be “postponed” to a later date. Grocery stores and supermarkets were not considered gathering sites and were exempt from the curfew, Jennings said.
After Tuesday, Jennings said it will be the city’s recommendation that restaurants close to dine-in customers or “dramatically limit” those customers outside of curfew times but also recognizes that some restaurants may not be designed to do that.
The city also recommended that all gyms and fitness centers close, and is delaying collection of property taxes and license registration until June.
The measure from Portland goes past state guidance so far. While Gov. Janet Mills has recommended that Mainers not hold gatherings of more than 50 people — or 10 people if seniors or others vulnerable to the virus are involved — she said on Sunday that she was not ready to order restaurants and bars to close or move to take-out or delivery service.
Doug Fuss, who owns Bull Feeney’s, a Portland Old Port Irish pub, said closing on St. Patrick’s Day will be a big blow to his bottom line. He said it will be even bigger for his staff who rely on tips, but he said it was “100 percent the right thing to do” so bars do not have to decide on their own.
“If we stay in this together, then we can rise above it together,” Fuss said.
BDN writers Michael Shepherd and Troy R. Bennett contributed to this report.