BAR HARBOR — Town staff and the Chamber of Commerce are working on ways to allow downtown businesses to expand operations onto town property this summer as a way to serve more customers without violating physical distancing rules.
Complete street closures are no longer being considered after the police and fire departments expressed concerns about emergency access.
Instead, Chamber of Commerce board member Eben Salvatore presented a map to the Town Council Tuesday with a proposal for nine small “parklets” along Cottage Street, Main Street and Mount Desert Street. These would be on-street parking spaces set off with concrete barriers to allow a restaurant or store use of the space. There would be none on West Street because traffic moves too fast there.
“There doesn’t seem to be any strong desire for a store to fill a parking space with their merchandise,” said Salvatore, who said he spoke with almost every downtown business about the idea. But retail store owners did say customers waiting to come into their stores would need a safe place to line up, out of the way of other pedestrian traffic.
“Anything is better than doing nothing,” Salvatore told councilors. “If it’s not used, you can take it away. If it is used, you could expand it.”
Alcohol consumption is another primary question.
“If a business was interested in serving food and alcohol outside their restaurant, there’s a couple of ways that can happen,” Willis explained to the Islander Wednesday.
The business could serve alcohol on private property, on land contiguous with the establishment, he said.
Some municipalities, including Portland, have agreements with restaurants to allow alcohol to be served on municipal land. The restaurants go through an application process with the city and pay a fee.
Those areas don’t have to be contiguous with the establishment, but they do have to be exclusive to a single business since they are operating under that businesses’ liquor license.
State liquor laws do not allow the town to set up picnic areas for customers of several establishments, or for use by the general public, in which alcohol could be consumed.
A business with a liquor license must be responsible for making sure the alcohol is being served in a way that complies with state law. The area must also be physically contained, such as when part of Cottage Street has been blocked off for the outdoor Winter Beer Festival.