PORTLAND, Maine — Masks will once again be required in Portland restaurants and businesses, councilors decided at a Monday meeting.
The Portland City Council also voted to repeal the city’s state of emergency, which will have major impacts, including to the city’s minimum wage.
Starting Wednesday, masks will be required in shops regardless of vaccination status, but proof of vaccination can exempt people inside restaurants, bars and gyms. The mandate also follows the CDC’s definition of being fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks after your last shot.
Businesses have until Jan. 10 to post signs about the mask requirement, which would be the first municipal-only mask mandate since the pandemic began in Maine. Some cities and towns had mandates concurrently with the state, which phased out that and other pandemic orders last year.
Portland residents, hospitality workers and business owners spoke in Monday night’s meeting, including David Turin, the owner of David’s Restaurant in Monument Square.
Turin explained how the business has been proactive since the beginning of the pandemic. His workers have always worn masks, socially distanced and are 93 percent vaccinated. He asked the council to back up these decisions by backing the mandate.
“My decision here at David’s to require guests to wear masks at David’s without a supporting government mandate, seems to embolden guests, some who don’t want to comply to shout threats and prerogatives at me and my staff,” Turin said.
The city’s state of emergency was repealed in Monday night’s meeting, meaning Portland’s minimum wage will return to $13 in 10 days, compared with the $19.50 it went to starting Jan. 1. The council voted to repeal the ordinance 8-1, with only Councilor Victoria Pelletier voting to keep it.
“There is a crisis, but it’s not an emergency if you have an infrastructure in place and have been using that infrastructure for almost a year,” Councilor Tae Chong said. “Portland is the last city to have state of emergency in the state of Maine.”
Councilors mentioned Monday night that amendments or changes to the mandates will be discussed in their next meeting on Jan. 17.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.