BRUNSWICK — States of emergency have been declared in both Brunswick and Bath on Tuesday in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge declared an emergency late Tuesday afternoon, effectively instituting a curfew and prohibiting nightlife on the grounds that “public health is imperiled by the person-to-person spread of COVID-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

“The risk of community spread of COVID-19 seriously impacts the life, health and safety of the public,” the proclamation states. 

Under the order, no person “shall be in or remain in any” restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums, dance clubs, music venues and recreation centers (including fitness studios, bowling alleys, racquet clubs and gyms) between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. for at least the next five days. 

Take-out service is not prohibited by the order. 

Bath issued a state of emergency proclamation late Tuesday afternoon that prohibits people from being in businesses where groups of people gather such as restaurants, music venues, museums and dance clubs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Signed by Peter Owen, Bath city manager, and Mari Eosco, Bath city council chairwoman, the curfew begins Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Take out service is not prohibited by the order.

The proclamation states: “The risk of community spread throughout Bath impacts the life, health, and safety of the public and the public health imperiled the person-to-person spread of COVID-19.”

The order will remain in effect until it is renewed or revoked by the Bath City Council.

Owen and Eosco could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Brunswick Town Council will hold an emergency meeting at 6:30 p.m.  Wednesday to consider the proclamation and “discuss the Town’s contingency plans for operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The decision comes less than 24-hours after a council discussion about whether to temporarily close restaurants and bars in Brunswick to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The suggestion, first proposed by councilor James Mason, was met with mixed reactions from the council, with some agreeing it was a “drastic” but appropriate measure, while others, like councilor David Watson, said it “raises constitutional issues.” 

Councilors Dan Ankeles, Steve Walker and Mason supported the idea. 

“Nobody wants to alter how people run their business to that extent, but I also don’t want to get my parents and in-laws sick,” Ankeles said. 

Tuesday afternoon, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced there were 32 confirmed positive and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Maine. Of those, the majority are in Cumberland County, where Dr. Nirav Shah, CDC director, said there is evidence of community transmission. 

“What we need to do is stop gatherings,” Mason said. 

Some places, such as grocery stores and gas stations, establishments that council chair John Perreault said are “the backbone of what’s keeping us going right now,” will have to remain open, but others should close, Mason said. 

Many businesses are already taking action. 

Byrne’s Irish Pub in Brunswick is suspending all operations until further notice, and offered take-out only for its St. Patrick’s Day dinners in Bath. Joshua’s Restaurant and Tavern is closed for at least two weeks. 

TJ Siatras owns Joshua’s with his wife and is the third generation to do so. The restaurant has been in town for a long time, he said, and is financially able to make such a call, but he knows others may not be. 

He tried to keep the restaurant open for as long as it was safe, but with the coronavirus primarily impacting “a more senior generation and Brunsick being so much of a retirement community,” it came time to “bite the bullet and close the doors.” 

“I think we all have to show a little bit of social responsibility,” he said.

Even without a mandate, his business and others are taking a financial hit as more people stay home and practice social distancing. 

“There comes a point where financially, we have to look at it and say we’re spending more money than we’re taking in,” Siartas said. “We’ve seen a lot of challenges (but) this one is certainly unique. We hope to be on the backside of this curve in a couple weeks.”

The Great Impasta, Richard’s Restaurant and Frontier all initially tried to shut down dine-in and instead switch to takeout. By Tuesday afternoon, all three posted on their respective social media pages that they would close until further notice. 

Portland Pie Company, Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe, Big Top Deli and Hacienda Pancho Villa and others have switched to take-out only for the time being. 

According to Mason, it’s not enough, and the council needs to go beyond making suggestions.

“If (just) most of the public is trying to live up to these recommendations we will not flatten this curve,” he said. “It’s going to take significant action.” 

Walker agreed. 

“We have the next few weeks to flatten the curve,” Walker said. “If we’re going to be leaders here, it’s the appropriate thing to do.” 

Still, some Brunswick councilors were worried about the lasting economic effects such an action would have on business owners and their families. 

“There’s a real human cost to people who are living in our community,” councilor Christopher Watkinson said. “I worry about the kind of impact it would have.” 

Councilor Kathy Wilson said she was “uncomfortable with interfering with people’s incomes, and this certainly will,” but added that “being overly cautious at this time is a good thing.” 

“If we’re going to take this step… I do think we have to be willing to make some sort of accommodations” to help people who may be affected, she said. 

Most agreed they were not ready to make any emergency declaration or adopt any ordinance Monday, especially without a town attorney present, and instead opted to schedule the emergency meeting Wednesday. It is unclear if the proclamation can be modified at the meeting or if the council will simply vote yes or no. 

Ankeles lamented the lack of action during both the meeting and on social media.

We failed to acknowledge the life and death reality of this pandemic at tonight’s Council meeting,” he said in a Facebook post following the meeting. “Tonight was supposed to be the  night where decisions about public gatherings were made, and all we ended up with was discussion and the potential for another meeting this week, which is not safe at all.”

Asking businesses to take precautions is “simply not sufficient in a case like this,” he said.

Town officials announced Tuesday that town hall and the town offices are closed through at least March 27. Staff will be available through email, phone and the town website.

Most Town boards and committee meetings and the council budget workshops are canceled. 

The emergency town council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Councilors will discuss the town’s response to COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of further action to limit gatherings. No public comment will be taken at the meeting. People are encouraged to watch the meeting via TV3 or live stream the meeting from the town’s website. 


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