AUGUSTA — Tobias Parkhurst, co-owner of State Lunch and Cushnoc Brewing Co., was scrambling around Sunday afternoon to pick up Plexiglass barriers and tables in anticipation of the restaurants’ reopening Monday to dine-in service.

“We’ve been working feverishly,” Parkhurst said. “We’re driving around getting barriers and picking up tables at different places.”

Parkhurst’s restaurants will be open Monday, with an updated floor plan and new outdoor seating. Both restaurants will continue to offer takeout meals for at least a portion of the day.

Parkhurst said having takeout options remains important for both restaurants because some customers might not be ready to dine in.

Customers visit at a distance Sunday at The Blind Pig Tavern in Gardiner. The owners say they plan to reopen Monday and will follow state guidelines.

Owners of and employees at other central Maine restaurants were also scrambling Sunday to make last-minute changes in anticipation of Monday service.

Updated restrictions issued May 8 by Gov. Janet Mills allow restaurants in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties to open for dine-in service, with some restrictions on the number of guests in the restaurant, limits on party size and guidelines requiring personal protective equipment and social distancing.


In Hallowell, Geoff Houghton, owner of The Liberal Cup, said the restaurant’s new patio will be open Monday, which makes up for six tables that had to be removed from the dining room due to state restrictions. Along with seating plan changes, Houghton said new employees were hired with the sole responsibility of keeping the restaurant clean.

Houghton said the restaurant may struggle to keep all items on the menu because some meat processing plant closures have affected the national supply. He said that shortage, along with increased costs for personal protective equipment, may cause some items to be more expensive or disappear from the menu.

Sarah Harris holds her daughter, Eleanor, 2, on Sunday while placing an air filtration system on the counter at the A1 Diner, which she operates with her husband, Aaron, in Gardiner. The eatery plans to reopen Monday with strict guidelines in place for guests and staff. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“Even at the supermarkets, there’s a shortage (of some) items,” Houghton said. “Ground beef has doubled in price. Wings are hard to get.”

Houghton said the restaurant will encourage calling ahead because the waiting area must remain clear. He said customers waiting to be seated will be asked to wait in their vehicles or on the street.

In Gardiner, Aaron Harris, owner of the A1 Diner, said the restaurant’s lunch counter will be off-limits initially, with only four booths able to seat customers.

Since the diner is in an original diner car, social distancing in a confined area may be challenging. He said he is looking to get Plexiglass barriers between the booths, and weighing how to make them less “invasive” to the dining experience. Another change is removing condiments and shakers from the tables.


“This might be a new normal for quite some time,” he said. “We want it to work and be effective.”

Parkhurst said his restaurants have always wanted to work within the governor’s guidelines “as well as possible,” which would not have been possible without a “remarkable group” of employees.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the best restaurant is going to run like under these new conditions,” Parkhurst said.

Harris, trying to be optimistic about the prior period of takeout only, said he recognized new customers coming in for food. He said he expects takeout to be a bigger part of the business model going forward. He said people “really do depend on the business” for a quick meal and social interaction.

“Our takeout customers are still there and very important,” Harris said.  “(A woman) was visiting her father in hospice care and she didn’t have the energy to drive home. I was a quick ear … and (she could) get a hot meal.”

Also in Gardiner, Gerard’s Pizza at 233 Water St. had a sign on its door announcing it would be opening Tuesday.

And down the street, Brandi and Roland Kennerson were sitting outside their restaurant, The Blind Pig Tavern, which will offer seven outdoor tables when it opens Monday.

Brandi Kennerson said the restaurant’s small indoor space only has five tables because distancing regulations forced four tables and 10 bar seats to go.

Brandi Kennerson said reservations are preferred but not required Monday. She said she planned to install flower pots 6 feet apart for waiting customers.

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