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Housing & Economic Development

Posted on: March 2, 2021

City Details Outdoor Dining & Retail Program for 2021-2022 Season

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In order to continue helping local businesses through the pandemic, the City is updating its outdoor dining and retail permitting program, which will be in effect from April 2021 to April 2022. The program allows retailers and restaurants to apply to expand into public spaces, including closed streets, parklets, the public right-of-way, and parks. In addition, they may apply to extend their use of private space into the winter season. Similar to the 2020-2021 program, the City’s goal is to help small businesses operate successfully, safely, and in compliance with social distancing guidelines. The program covers the entire city and not just the downtown area. 

“We look forward to working with small business owners and residents to help the city thrive safely in the coming year,” said City Manager Jon Jennings. “We welcome any suggestions or proposals to further improve business’ ability to operate successfully and in compliance with State regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Businesses who wish to apply should visit the City’s Business Licensing page to access the application materials. 

Street Closures
The following streets will be closed to vehicle traffic from April 5, 2021 to November 1, 2021: Wharf, Dana, Milk (between Exchange/Market), and Fore Street (on the southeast side of Boothby Square, between Pearl/Silver). Commercial vehicles may access these streets before 11:00 AM daily to make deliveries. 

Street Closeure

Traffic on Middle Street will be adjusted to one-way only to allow businesses to operate in the public right-of-way, similar to how they did in 2020.

The southeast side of Boothby Square (between Pearl/Silver) is a new addition to this program, and was made in response to requests from local businesses. As this is a street over which the State has authority, its closure will be confirmed pending MaineDOT approval.

Streets temporarily closed to traffic will have one “soft” closure (through which delivery vehicles can travel at designated hours) and one “hard” closure, delineated by large concrete barricades or planters. 

All plans to place furniture or other elements on the street must be reviewed and approved by the Department of Permitting & Inspections. For information on what is and is not allowed, interested parties should contact  bl@portlandmaine.gov.

Spring/Summer/Fall Permits (April 5, 2021 to November 1, 2021)
Existing permits to operate outdoors will remain in effect until May 10, 2021. To continue to operate outdoors after that date, businesses must renew their permit by May 10, 2021. 

While street closures will commence on April 5, 2021, applications to operate on closed streets will be accepted up until May 10, 2021.

Winter Permits (November 1, 2021 to April 4, 2022)
Businesses that wish to conduct business outdoors during the winter must apply for a seasonal renewal, at no cost. The purpose of this seasonal renewal is to ensure that existing structures can accommodate snow removal operations, as well as to gather information on which businesses plan to continue to operate outdoors during the winter. The application deadline for the winter program is October 15, 2021.

Exchange Street
Businesses on Exchange Street that would like to operate outdoors have a couple options:

  • Those abutting a public park or plaza may submit a plan to operate in that space;
  • Apply to operate in up to two contiguous parklets.

Due to the number of businesses on Exchange Street, the narrowness/configuration of the street, and the simultaneous use of the street for parking and vehicular traffic, a limited number of parklet spaces will be made available. Applications will be approved on a first-come, first-serve basis, and requests for two contiguous parklet spaces will be granted only after neighboring businesses’ needs are taken into account. 

Parklets
Businesses not located on a closed street may apply for up to two contiguous parklets. All parklet regulations as outlined in Section 25 of City Code must be met. In the event that it is impossible for a business to operate a parklet in accordance with the City ordinance, staff will consider safe alternatives. 

Parklets located on streets with speed limits in excess of 25 mph or on streets with significant vehicle traffic will be required to include one concrete barricade, provided and placed by the City, on all three sides not abutting the curb.

Parklets located on streets with speed limits under 25 mph and relatively low levels of vehicle traffic are required, by City Code, to include three-foot wheel stops on either end of their parklet. Staff will consider requests to place concrete barricades on the short ends of parklets in lieu of wheel stops.

Barricades & Beautification
To help create a welcoming atmosphere on and around closed streets, staff have planned several changes to the style and configuration of barricades.

Most notably, large concrete planters with a pebbled texture will be used at the ends of closed streets. Parks Department staff will plant and maintain flowers beginning in May (depending on the weather). In the event of a shortage of planters, concrete barricades topped with wooden planters will be used. Both planters and barricades will be spaced appropriately to allow pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as sight lines up and down streets.

The City is happy to consider any private initiatives to beautify and enhance public space further.


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