AUGUSTA – Last week Governor Janet Mills announced she would permit restaurants to open on May 18th across twelve Maine counties. Along with the announcement, Governor Mills released a list of regulations restaurants in those counties must obey. Many of the regulations are unlikely to be noticed or cause controversy, such as allowing restaurant employees to eat lunch and take breaks outside. Other regulations, however, are certain to impact your dining experience.
Under Mills’ rules for restaurants, employees are required to wear face coverings and customers are as well. The only point at which customers can remove their face coverings is when they are seated at their table.
Restaurant seating that is typically close quarters will be required to change, with tables required to be at least six feet apart. No more than eight people will be allowed to eat in a single party and no more than fifty people will be allowed to dine in one room.
When it comes to ordering, you will either be provided a laminated menu that will be sanitized after each use, or a menu on single use paper that will be thrown out after you use it.
If you’re the type who is looking forward to spending the evening at the bar in your local restaurant for couple drinks, keep in mind that Governor Janet Mills’ rules for restaurants that when the kitchen is closed, the bar has to close.
In what is likely to be the most controversial rule in the package, Governor Mills is expecting restaurants to track the name and contact information of at least one member of each party that dines out at any of these restaurants.
“For contact tracing purposes, maintain records of customers, including one customer name and contact information per party and the server of the table,” says page 2 of Governor Mills’ rules for restaurants under the ‘Customers’ section of the document.
Collection of that information is already drawing the ire of privacy advocates and opponents. It is likely the first highly visible piece of a broader contact tracing plan that Mills and Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah have discussed publicly in recent weeks.
The regulation list for reopening of restaurants in those twelve counties (all counties except York, Cumberland, Penobscot and Androscoggin) is five pages long. It covers a wide variety of rules for restaurants, from maintainging social distancing in waiting areas to vendor deliveries, social distancing at bar areas and much more.
Other businesses, such as retail establishments previously classified as non-essential and others, will reopen on Monday, May 11th in these same counties. You can read the list of rules those establishments will be required to meet by clicking here.