Pandemic Outlook for Restaurants

The Forecaster has a report on the pandemic’s impact on restaurants in South Portland and more broadly in Maine.

“It’s been devastating.” That’s how Craig Dilger, owner of Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, described the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local restaurants. This week, Gov. Janet Mills issued new orders allowing restaurants in Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties to once again offer indoor dine-in seating, but since local restaurants haven’t been allowed to do so since March, the damage may already be done.

Reviewing and Retaining

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article by Andrew Ross on the factors impacting his decision on when to start reviewing restaurants again,

But I confess, I miss writing about restaurants … maybe even more than I miss eating in them. I miss pulling out my phone and scrolling through photos of the dishes I ate and zooming in to puzzle out what made them succeed (or not). I even miss deciphering the notes I took surreptitiously during a meal. These are typed under the table, so they frequently read as if they were tapped out by someone with 10 thumbs.

and an article about which of the changes brought about by the pandemic are likely to persist after things return to normal.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a whole menu of changes to Maine’s restaurant industry. Some innovations, like the temporary approval of cocktails to go, have excited both restaurant owners and diners. Others changes, they say, should be 86’d as soon as possible, restaurant lingo for “no longer available.” Here’s our look at some of the adjustments that have been made this spring, and the odds that they’ll stick around after the pandemic is over…

Black Dinah Chocolatiers to Change Name

Black Dinah Chocolates has announced plans to change the name of the company.

I’ve just plain been thinking a lot, period, these past two and a half weeks. About racism, antiracism, racial justice, and the powerful movement that is in play in our country at this moment. About what it takes for change to happen: murder, outrage, collective grief. And my place in it all. My company’s place in it all. And how it relates to you.

The company was named for Black Dinah Mountain on Isle au Haut where the company got its start before moving to Westbrook.

Several years after we moved our company to the mainland and south to the Greater Portland area, we noticed, to our dismay, that not everyone had the same good associations with our company name. And as our customer base grew, so did our perspective. Last fall, we began, as a team, to make a plan to transition to a new name.

The new name will be announced in July.

For additional information see articles in the Bangor Daily News and MaineBiz.

Streets to Dining Rooms

Two more streets in Portland have been turned into outdoor dining space for local restaurants.

  • The stretch of Middle Street from India to Franklin has been turned into a one way street with areas in front of Eventide and The Honey Paw, and in front of East Ender, Duckfat and Ribolita blocked off for tables.
  • Boothly Square businesses have gotten the approval to close off and use the streets and green space in the square for outdoor dining.

There’s a growing list of restaurants offering outdoor dining in addition to takeout and delivery.

License to Change

The Press Herald reports that some businesses are taking the opportunity to change their business license in order to offer outdoor dining.

Novare Res, Sagamore Hill Lounge, Tomaso’s Canteen and Rising Tide Brewing, which were all previously licensed as Class A lounges, have been issued restaurant licenses, allowing them to reopen before other bars and brew pubs. Bars, pubs and tasting rooms will be allowed to open as soon as July 1 unless the reopening plan is changed.

Showing Support

An article in the Press Herald highlights some of the ways local businesses including those in the hospitality business are showing their support for the protests. Included in the article’s coverage are Ada’s, Rising Tide and The Honey Paw.

Sid Rumma, a partner at Ada’s pasta restaurant on Congress Street in Portland, couldn’t participate in the Black Lives Matter protests, but he could offer bowls of spaghetti to those protesting.

“I’m just trying to be helpful,” he said as he prepared free midday meals on Wednesday, the second day he and his team at Ada’s have offered to feed and nourish hungry protesters in advance of the afternoon’s public demonstrations.

Black-Owned Restaurants and Bars

I’ve been getting a number of requests the last couple of days for a list of black-owned restaurants and bars. Here are the ones I know of in the Portland area—please let me know if you know of any that are missing and I’ll add them to the list.

For a list of black-owned businesses in a range of industries across the state of Maine see blackownedmaine.com.

Governor Delays Restaurant Re-Opening for Indoor Dining

The governor has announced plans to delay the re-opening of restaurants for indoor dining in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties. The change will still allow for restaurants to begin outdoor dining in those counties as scheduled on June 1st.

The Mills Administration announced today that it is postponing the full reopening of restaurants for dine-in services in York, Cumberland, and Androscoggin counties. Restaurants in these counties were tentatively scheduled to reopen to dine-in services on June 1 (Stage 2) but are now restricted to reopening to outside dining service only beginning on that date in addition to continuing to provide take-away and delivery services. The decision to limit their reopening comes amidst an increase in hospitalizations as well as an increase in case counts in these three counties, both of which are metrics monitored by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC).

A new date for the restart of indoor dining hasn’t been set yet.

Update:As the Press Herald has reported, some restaurants are unhappy with the change in policy, but several restaurants are still moving forward with plans to re-open with just outdoor seating.

Brewers Push for Changes to Re-Opening Plan

The Press Herald reports on an effort by the Brewers Guild to move up the date breweries can re-open their tasting rooms.

The Maine Brewers Guild said Tuesday that the current plan puts the breweries and brew pubs in the same category as bars, which aren’t allowed to reopen until July 1. But many of the breweries in Maine offer outdoor seating and are at least as safe as the restaurants, said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the guild.