PORTLAND, Maine — The city’s outdoor business plan for the second summer of the pandemic will aim to bring more retailers and shops beyond the downtown area into public spaces, closed streets, parks and parklets. The plan expands on an emergency outdoor dining plan that helped restaurants weather the first year of the coronavirus.
Mayor Kate Snyder said the city is “open to ideas across sectors and on and off peninsula.”
The city will fully close Wharf and Dana streets to vehicle traffic from April to November, and partially close Milk and Fore streets as well as part of Boothby Square. Commercial vehicles will be allowed to access these streets to make morning deliveries.
Restaurants and retailers can apply for or renew outdoor permits until May 10, 2021, and may reapply at no cost for a winter permit in November if the city determines they have proper snow removal accommodations.
The city is also encouraging business owners to apply for parklets, or public parking spots repurposed for private business use. Those applications will be decided on a first-come first-served basis with certain restrictions depending on the street type and speed limit.
More than 140 Portland businesses were permitted for outdoor service last year, with roughly 55 permitted through the winter. Outdoor dining made up the vast majority of permits, with roughly 12 percent of permits going to retail establishments for sidewalk sales, according to a tally obtained in late June.
Permitting fees are unchanged from last year. Retailers will pay $92 for a sidewalk vending permit, with restaurants charged $84 plus $2 per square foot. Parklet permits cost $1,092. Restaurants also have the option of serving in public parks for $84 plus $6.30 per square foot.
City officials will not close Exchange Street, an historic commercial artery over which the state has authority, to vehicle traffic as it did last year. Roughly half of the Exchange Street businesses that responded to a city survey disapproved of that decision last year, saying it negatively affected sales.
City manager Jon Jennings said that he welcomes proposals to improve businesses’ ability to operate “successfully and in compliance with state regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The outdoor dining and retail program applies throughout the city — not just the Old Port or downtown areas. The city has also called for private initiatives to “beautify and enhance” public space affected by barricades and street closures.