Early Curfew in Maine Means No New Year's Boost to Maine Businesses

On Wednesday, Gov. Janet Mills extended the state's 9 p.m. closure time for restaurants and other businesses until further notice

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Much like other states in New England, the usual crowds of people who gather at bars and restaurants to revel and celebrate the new year in Maine will not do so this year.

For weeks, Gov. Janet Mills had mandated a 9 p.m. closure time to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state. On Wednesday, Mills extended that required closing time "until further notice."

For businesses, especially bars who bill themselves as New Year's Eve destinations, that means there will be no year-end boost.

But for other restaurants and businesses, an evening of celebration that is modified for the pandemic might not present a massive financial challenge.

"We're probably going to be busy," said Drew Kinney, the head chef and kitchen manager at Wilson County Barbecue, a restaurant that opened in Portland's Bayside neighborhood in January 2020.

"From Christmas Day until today, it's been non-stop for us, we've had a lot of dine-in customers, a lot of takeout and we do a third-party delivery service which has been really crushing it for us," Kinney said.

Kinney believes many Mainers have already adapted to the 9 p.m. closing time and a number are grabbing family style takeout when they might not have before.

"The people that aren't used to it are the ones that are visiting for the holidays," he said.

Meanwhile, at Portland Beer Hub, a hybrid beer retail store and tap house, owner Jorgen Persson said New Year's Eve was "really slow" but a quieter winter was following a "monster year" thanks to a busy summer of outdoor dining in Boothby Square.

As for the 9 p.m. closing time, Persson said it would not have that big of an impact on his business for the time being.

"Not really for me because I'm switching to e-commerce and retail. We have the luxury to do that," he said.

Both businesses said they hoped to build on momentum they had achieved this year in 2021.

Persson hoped to expand and improve his outdoor dining set up while Kinney said he hoped Wilson County would continue to see even more customers in the new year.

Overall, Maine's COVID-19 outlook on New Year's Eve can be described as mixed.

The state recorded one of its highest daily numbers on Thursday at 702 new cases while it also reported 13 new deaths. There have now been 24,201 cases and 347 deaths, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Wednesday, the total number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Maine exceeded the total number of cases of the virus in the state since numbers began being recorded in early 2020.

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