State offers help to restaurants affected by dine-in delay

Published: May. 30, 2020 at 10:39 AM EDT
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The state of Maine is offering to buy food purchased by restaurants in three Maine counties that had prepared to open for dine-in service on Monday, only to learn indoor service would not be permitted because of COVID-19.

According to a statement released Saturday morning, Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty said that Gov. Janet Mills had directed his department to offer to buy food from restaurants in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties.

Restaurants in those three counties were planning to reopen for indoor dining service starting Monday. But last week, the governor announced that dine-in service would not be permitted for restaurants in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties after all, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Instead, these restaurants are limited to outdoor dining and/or takeout.

Mills said in her radio address on Saturday that from May 20 to May 26, Cumberland County recorded 193 new cases, while Androscoggin and York counties experienced 96 and 52 new cases, respectively.

Many restaurant owners were upset by the governor's decision to postpone dine-in service, citing extra costs incurred and the short notice.

Liberty said that restaurants that had bought food before Mills' May 27 announcement delaying the return to dine-in service should contact the Maine Department of Corrections if they wish to sell their food.

"At the direction of the governor, the Department of Corrections stands ready to help businesses in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties," Liberty said. The food purchased from restaurants will be served to inmates and staff, he said.

The department is able to purchase perishable and nonperishable food, except for dairy, Liberty said, at a price equal to what the department would pay through its food contract.

Restaurants interested in selling their food need to be a registered vendor with the state of Maine, Liberty said, adding that payments would take about two weeks to process.

Restaurant owners should contact the Department of Corrections directly. Inquiries should be sent to Associate Commissioner Karen Yeaton at by June 5 and provide the following information: the type of food available, the quantity to be sold and the dollar value of the food.

As of Friday afternoon, Maine has had 2,226 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 85 deaths, according to the Maine CDC. The agency said that of the 2,226 cases, 1,458 patients had recovered from the virus. Currently, 53 patients are hospitalized with 18 patients in critical care.