May 31, 2020
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Business group calls COVID-19 restrictions ‘a death march for restaurants’

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A message is posted on the front window of the Ranging Bull Saloon which remains closed during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Gov. Janet Mills announced plans for the eventual reopening of restaurants and other businesses at a news conference on Tuesday.

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A group representing restaurant owners and workers across Maine has asked Gov. Janet Mills to reconsider restrictions on when restaurants can reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter mailed to Mills on Thursday, the Restaurant Workers of Maine warns that the industry could collapse if restaurants are not allowed to operate at full capacity by July 1, the Portland Press Herald reports. A spokeswoman for the governor said the administration welcomed the letter.

The statement came hours before an Oxford County restaurant owner told Fox News that he plans to open to dine-in customers on Friday in defiance of a state order aimed at slowing the coronavirus. The restaurant group, meanwhile, wants the state to allow the industry to reopen in mid-May rather than go another month with curbside pickup only.

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Mills press secretary Lindsay Crete said in an email Thursday that the government would consider the group’s request.

“It is our goal to work collaboratively with different sectors of the economy to open in a manner that protects the well being of Maine people and the economy,” Crete wrote.

Restaurants will be allowed to open June 1 and bars on July 1 under the executive order Mills issued Wednesday. The letter describes the reopening dates and other restrictions in Mills’ order “a death march for restaurants.”

The group, which says it has 5,000 members, described May to September as accounting for about 46 percent of a year-round restaurant’s sales and almost 90 percent of sales for seasonal operations. The group offered protective measures, including limiting the number of diners to those that can be adequately distanced 6 feet apart, using disposable menus or cleaning tables, chairs and laminated menus after each use, lifting zoning rules to create outside seating, and posting signs prohibiting anyone with COVID-19 symptoms from entering, the Press Herald reports.

“We understand these are extraordinarily difficult times and we certainly think that the restaurant industry is well-positioned to operate in safe, healthy and reassuring ways based on our requirement to take sanitation and health precautions seriously during regular times,” their letter says. “We are a business of extremely tight margins and we will be the number one hardest hit state in the country by this virus economically.”

Watch: State labor commissioner speaks to unemployed Mainers

 


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