Portland restaurants review exterior options and interior upgrades for winter

Danielle and John Zhu of California dine out at Duckfat in Portland on Tuesday. The restaurant plans to have a heated outdoor waiting room for patrons to take out this winter. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer Buy this photo

Nancy Pugh, co-owner of Duckfat on Middle Street, was happy to hear that Portland City Council approved the extension of alfresco dining until Jan. 4 on Monday evening.

But she will not add more seats outside in her small restaurant. Instead, she hopes to use the parking lane outside Duckfat for one or more covered and heated rest areas that would help improve the take-out operation, keeping customers warm and dry for a while. that they are waiting for their food. This in turn would free up two interior tables where she could safely serve customers without having to worry about them being too close to a take-out line.

But Pugh also wants to explore other options, including hosting special events – a winter carnival, perhaps, or a snow bar – and asking the city to allow outdoor spaces to run until spring.

“I don’t see a thing being the solution,” Pugh said. “I see him as being creative.”

The city plan allows restaurants and retailers to operate until Jan. 4 on private property, public sidewalks and parking lanes. Businesses must apply for permits, but the city will waive the fee.

During the summer and fall, Duckfat served customers in a large tent in the southbound lane of Middle Street, part of which was closed to traffic. The restaurant has not reopened for indoor dining as its small capacity means it is neither safe nor profitable.

Waitress Anna Ayotte brings food to a tent table at Duckfat in Portland on Tuesday. At the table are Nick and Linda Cashman from Hampton, NJ. The tent will have to come down when the streets reopen to traffic on November 1, but the city will continue to allow some outdoor dining options. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer Buy this photo

But all streets in the city that were closed will reopen on November 1, with the exception of Dana Street (from Fore Street to Wharf Street) and Wharf Street (from Union Street to Dana Street). Middle Street businesses can continue to use the parking lanes.

Pugh said Duckfat already has two closed sidewalk tables to protect patrons from the elements, but that alone is not enough to keep the restaurant open for the long term. Take-out neither, although she hopes that by improving the take-out system with outdoor waiting areas, she can “create a little more income and make it a little less painful.”

Pugh said the restaurant installed a new air filtration system three weeks ago to make staff and customers more comfortable inside. Jay Villani did the same at the Salvage BBQ on Congress Street, where alfresco dining has so far been a failure due to noise and dust from construction going on across the street at the Maine Medical Center.

Villani set up a large tent over the summer, but few customers have used it. Recently, he spent $ 1,600 to add an indoor air disinfection system similar to those found in hospitals, nursing homes and restaurants, and plans to do the same at his other restaurants. of Portland, Local 188 and Black Cow.

Middle Street restaurants, including Eventide, served patrons outside on Tuesday, with temperatures in the 1950s. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer Buy this photo

“Is it foolproof? No. But will it help? I think it’s going to help, “he said.” I think it’s more about putting people at ease and adjusting them to a new normal. “

Villani has said he will likely leave his tent until Jan.4 for anyone who wants to use it, but he doesn’t expect many takers.

He said that with only eight to ten tables in the hall he was making no profit, “but I’m not losing that much money at this point.”

“Our next goal is just to hold out until spring,” he said. “Let’s come to April.

At the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club on Exchange Street, there will be no indoor dining until the end of the year. Owners Briana and Andrew Volk were among those pushing the city to allow extended alfresco dining, and they plan to enjoy it by being as creative as possible – at least until December 31, when they will close for the winter and work on construction. a small store inside the restaurant that will sell take-out cocktails, canned fish, wines and snacks.

Tables are set on Middle Street in Portland for alfresco dining. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer Buy this photo

The Volks’ winter outdoor restaurant – seven tables, spaced 6 feet apart – will feature large canvas umbrellas with open sides for ventilation. They have custom wool blankets made and order insulated mugs for hot cocktails at the table. The menu will be modified to focus on “warm and comfortable food”. There will even be a place where customers can park their skis or hang up their snowshoes.

“Masters know how to dress in winter,” Volk said. “We’ve all done this before. People are going to be comfortable, and it’s going to be hot. They are going to feel really comfortable in the space, and it will be safe for everyone. “


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Sandy A. Greer