Process Improvement

Dave Aceto from Arcadia, racial equity activist Tori Lyn and Alec Haviland from Dear Dairy are working together to identify needed improvements to the Portland permitting and inspection process. Here’s how Haviland wrote about this effort on instagram,

Dave Aceto, Tori Lyn and I have been working on a project to try to make the permitting and inspection process in Portland more equitable, more accessible and more efficient. After slogging through the process this past year I felt like, if we came together as constituents and legislators, we could build a better future for all current and prospective business owners. We’ve all heard the joke made when talking about our new projects, You: “So we are planning to be open in June!” Them: “Oh that’s so cute! So we’ll see you in February?” Honestly, I feel like we joke about it so we don’t cry about it. I sincerely believe that, especially coming out of the pandemic and into a time of healing and growth, our community needs to come together to make it easier for everyone to grow their projects.

As part of their process Lyn, Haviland and Aceto are looking to get input from a wide variety of business owners about their own experiences. You can contribute to their efforts by filling out this survey.

Food Delivery Regulations

The Press Herald reports that two Portland city councilors are working to address business tactics by national food delivery services.

City Councilors Andrew Zarro and Pious Ali are drafting a proposal that would likely require third-party food delivery services to have formal agreements with local businesses before offering delivery of their food and may limit the service fees they can charge.

Zarro said it’s unethical for delivery services such as DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats to make money off local businesses without their consent, while also posting incorrect information about an establishment’s menu, hours and contact information.

In a foodie city like Portland, quality, experience and branding is everything. And, he said, local businesses need more control.

The issue got traction over last weekend with this instagram post by city councilor Andrew Zarro.

Food Insecurity in Maine

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram reports on food insecurity and the work being done to better address the needs of immigrants and communities of Black, indigenous and people of color residents in Maine.

While the pandemic highlighted the disparity and inequity that already existed with food insecurity in Maine, it also made clear that smaller nonprofits led by people of color and tribal communities were not getting the funding support needed, Miale said.

“I think what COVID really highlighted is that while we have an amazing network of partners doing amazing work, we realized that we were not adequately reaching these communities,” she said. “If we were reaching them, we weren’t always providing them the support they needed and the food they needed, particularly our New Mainer communities.”

Restaurant Merchandise and Packaging

The Food & Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes articles on the big increase in takeout containers being used during the pandemic,

In my zeal to support local restaurants during the pandemic, I’ve amassed my own takeout container mountain like those Jenkins warned about. I compost the compostable ones, reuse many plastic ones for storage, and repurpose others to parcel out goodies to neighbors I make and bake as part of my job as a recipe developer. Even with these waste stream diversion tactics in place, I still contribute to my town’s waste management problem when I drop the remaining ones in the recycling bin.

and on restaurant’s sale of branded merchandise to augment their income.

As the pandemic has lingered, lots of Maine restaurants have either started selling merchandise with their logos, or beefed up their online stores with new products, in hope that the additional stream of cash can help them keep their heads above water. That stream is uneven, spiking over the holidays or whenever a photo gets posted on Instagram, but all the restaurateurs interviewed for this article say the same thing: Every little bit helps.

Hospitality Worker Vaccinations

For this week’s edition the Portland Phoenix talked with Portland hospitality workers to get their perspectives on Maine’s vaccination rollout plan.

Gov. Janet Mills’ Moving Maine Forward plan promises to increase the state’s indoor gathering capacity to 50 percent on March 26 and 100 percent May 24. With many hospitality workers, including 32-year-old Zarro, still ineligible for vaccinations they feel their safety is being sacrificed for tourism.

Volunteer at Preble Street

Preble Street is looking for volunteers with commercial kitchen experience to help meet the growing need for their meals:

Every day, Preble Street volunteers help prepare 1,000 meals for Mainers experiencing hunger. The vast majority of these meals are prepared in our Central Kitchen for delivery to area shelters and outdoor locations. As we work to meet a growing need for food assistance in our community, we welcome support from all who wish to help, and we are particularly interested in volunteers with professional kitchen experience. Kitchen volunteer duties include meal prep, packaging food for delivery, washing dishes, and other tasks assigned on an as-needed basis. Volunteer shifts at the Central Kitchen are offered three times daily:

    • Breakfast (7-10am)
    • Lunch (10am-1pm)
    • Dinner (2-5pm)

If you’re interested in volunteering you can sign-up online or email volunteer@preblestreet.org for more information.

Chowder King & Anticipated Eats

The Food & Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about the 1939 Maine Chowder King,

Lafayette chef George Miller had pitted his creamy New England clam chowder against the tomato-based, Manhattan-style chowder of Philadelphia chef Julius Savinese (or, according to some accounts, Savineur). The judges’ verdict on the Philadelphia chowder, according to the next day’s Boston Daily Globe: “Not a bad vegetable stew.”

“I’ve always known since I was born that my grandfather was the Clam Chowder King,” Michel told me when I reached out to her.

and the paper checks in with folks around the state about the dining experiences they’re most looking forward to once the pandemic is under control.

This month, I asked eight fellow food-and-drink-focused Mainers to share their own expectations of what’s to come. We might not all frequent the same neighborhood bars and restaurants, but we’ve got remarkably similar plans for the post-pandemic future.

Maine Updates Covid Rules

The Governor’s office announced a set of changes to regulations governing the operating of food and dining establishments during the pandemic.

The Moving Maine Forward plan maintains critical health and safety protocols that have protected Maine people over the past year, establishes a clear timeframe to increase capacity limits to support economic activity, and standardizes these limits across sectors by transitioning to a simple model based on percentage of capacity. The plan also revises Maine’s travel policies established last summer under the Keep Maine Healthy Program and sets a target reopening date of March 26 for indoor service at bars.

See the official announcement for all the details.

Outdoor Dining & Retail Program

The City of Portland has published details on the 2021 Outdoor Dining & Retail Program. The program details street closure, how restaurants can make use of public spaces such as parks and on how to make use of adjacent on street parking space to expand their outdoor dining areas.

In order to continue helping local businesses through the pandemic, the City is updating its outdoor dining and retail permitting program, which will be in effect from April 2021 to April 2022. The program allows retailers and restaurants to apply to expand into public spaces, including closed streets, parklets, the public right-of-way, and parks. In addition, they may apply to extend their use of private space into the winter season.