The Portland City Council voted Monday to help downtown Portland survive the pandemic by closing some city streets for months to allow stores and restaurants to operate outdoors. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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The Portland City Council voted Monday to help downtown Portland survive the pandemic by closing some city streets for months to allow stores and restaurants to operate outdoors.

The plan will loosen restrictions and reduce fees to help businesses — such as bars, restaurants and retailers — expand into nearby public and private spaces, such as sidewalks or plazas. City officials also said they are considering adding street closures to help other businesses, the Portland Press Herald reports.

“This is an experiment, and it’s one that we hope will be successful,” councilor Justin Costa told the Press Herald. “It’s one that we hope gives an option to retail and dining establishments to be able to operate as safely as they possibly can, but the truth is that none of us know if it’s going to be successful in helping businesses survive.”

“The only thing that we know is that it’s better than not trying at all,” he added.

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The vote follows the council’s Economic Development Committee’s unanimous endorsement of the street closures plan on Thursday. The plan, which would run June 1 to Nov. 1, calls for small stretches of Dana, Exchange, Milk and Wharf streets to be closed to traffic. Plans to close parts of Cotton and Middle streets were dropped.

Portland is Maine’s second city to look to help retailers survive the shutdown that came with the pandemic by stopping through-traffic. Rockland City Council members voted unanimously on May 11 to turn a portion of their downtown into an open-air market.