While bars and tasting rooms have not been allowed to reopen in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties because of continuing concerns about coronavirus risks, four businesses in Portland have found a way to start serving drinks again despite the state’s broad restrictions.

Novare Res, Sagamore Hill Lounge, Tomaso’s Canteen and Rising Tide Brewing, which were all previously licensed as Class A lounges, have been issued restaurant licenses, allowing them to reopen before other bars and brew pubs. Bars, pubs and tasting rooms will be allowed to open as soon as July 1 unless the reopening plan is changed.

Sagamore Hill Lounge announced on its website that it would open for patio service on June 10, Rising Tide Brewery opened for patio service on June 5 and Tomaso’s Canteen opened June 2. Novare Res has not yet announced plans to reopen.

Bars and tasting rooms in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties were not included in the changes that Gov. Janet Mills made to Maine’s reopening plan, which allow such establishments in 13 of Maine’s 16 counties to reopen on June 12.

According to the licensing and housing safety manager for the city of Portland, Jessica Hanscombe, the businesses that have been allowed to open all met the state requirements to downgrade their licenses from Class A lounges. Hanscombe said the state is allowing the changes.

State officials did not respond Friday for a request to be interviewed. It’s not clear how many businesses in other communities have also made the change, or whether more have applied.

On Friday afternoon, a mobile wood-fired oven billowed smoke from one side of Rising Tide’s patio, where employees of Fire & Company, a local catering service, slipped pizzas into the oven. The brewery was issued a Class III & IV license, which allows it to serve beer and wine and requires that at least 10 percent of its revenue come from food. The brewery partnered with Fire & Company to sell pizza, allowing it to meet the requirement.

The other three restaurants were issued Class XI licenses, which require the businesses to operate a full kitchen, and accumulate more than $50,000 in food sales per year, according to Hanscombe. She said that one other business had inquired about a downgraded license but decided that the changes were not worth the cost. Although the downgraded licenses are cheaper, no refunds will be issued to businesses.

The businesses must still ensure that all customers remain outside (except to use the bathrooms) and that employees wear face masks, among other precautions required by the state.

At Rising Tide, customers sit at spaced-out picnic tables with bottles of hand sanitizer on them. They are no longer allowed to go to the bar.

“(We’re) wiping every table down in between every gap which is part of why we’re doing a table service model,” said co-owner Heather Sanborn. “People are really excited to be out. And I think they really appreciate all the efforts that we’ve taken to try and do it as safely as possible.”

Doug Darby of Portland sat under the tent at Rising Tide sipping a beer as his puppy lay at his feet. A surgical mask hung from his chin.

“I just wanted to come have a beer and socialize my puppy to social environments,” Darby said. “We’re all very far apart and there’s a bit of a breeze outside, so I do feel very comfortable.”


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