Resumption of Indoor Bar Service in Maine Postponed

Bars had tentatively been scheduled to resume indoor service on July 1

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Gov. Janet Mills has put the brakes on the reopening of indoor service at bars in Maine amid the increase of coronavirus cases across the country.

Under the Restarting Maine's Economy plan, bars have been able to reopen for outdoor service and were tentatively scheduled to resume indoor service on July 1.

Mills announced Monday, however, that due to the "elevated risk presented by bars" and the growing number of coronavirus cases in other states, the administration is postponing indoor bar service until further notice.

"This was a difficult but necessary decision given the increased public health risk and the outbreaks we have seen across the country associated with indoor service," Mills said in a statement.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention pointed to the fact that there is an "elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission" at indoor bars due to crowds that come in close contact with one another and the fact that people may not be wearing cloth masks.

Health officials also pointed to a spike in cases in states like Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Idaho that they say are linked to the reopening of bars.

"Recent outbreaks related to indoor bar service in multiple states raise concerns," said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "As we learn more about how the virus spreads, duration and density – specifically being in close quarters inside, as is the case with most bars – clearly elevate the risk of virus transmission."

Outdoor bar service in Maine may still be provided and the administration said the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations will work with businesses to either establish or expand their outside capacity.

"While we believe this is the most prudent step to protect the health and safety of Maine people, we recognize that it will frustrate some businesses and patrons," Mills said.

"The Administration will work with these businesses to help them open for outdoor service to the extent they may be able to do so. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor the prevalence of this deadly virus and take whatever steps necessary to protect people as we continue the gradual reopening process," she added.

As of Monday, there were 102 COVID-19 deaths in Maine and 2,971 cases, according to the Maine CDC.

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