Downtown Bath back in business as Maine pandemic subsides



Businesses in downtown Bath are bouncing back on an increase in summer tourists and the easing of state coronavirus restrictions.

The Civil Emergency of Gov. Janet Mills – and subsequent public health mandates – ended June 30th. The civil emergency was issued on March 15, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine. The civil emergency allowed the governor to mandate things like masking and gathering sizes. All state-enacted COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, but state masking requirements at airports and on public transit remain in effect.

Heather Fear, marketing director for Now You’re Cooking, said the kitchen supply store on Front Street “opened” during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic last summer “because people cook at home and we cook them with them provided what they needed ”.

Angst said business continued to surge as the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rate rose, cases fell, and pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

“We’re having one of our best summers,” said Fear. “We have seen a huge surge in visitors and locals lately because I think people are so hungry for activity and old friends and are looking for ways to get involved in the places they love in Bath.”

Fear said the lifting of the store’s capacity constraints helped boost sales as locals can now visit family and friends, and tourists can browse in groups.

“In June last year we were only able to reopen for a few people,” said Fear. “It was nice to have people in the store, but difficult because we had to restrict people in the summer. People were aware that others were waiting outside so they didn’t rummage. They came in, got only what they needed and then left. “

Stores weren’t the only companies forced to offer only roadside pickup or severely restrict the number of people who could enter.

Down Center Street, Southgate Family Restaurant co-owner Karl Schaumeurg closed his restaurant for about two months last summer when his already small seating capacity shrank.

“We didn’t earn enough money to make ends meet,” said Schaumeurg. “We only have a capacity of 32 initially, so to spread them six feet apart we could only have 24 seats.”

After the restaurant reopened in August 2020, Schaumeurg said it was kept afloat by local customers and a noticeably smaller tourist crowd, but business is still 60-70% below normal.

“Now we are back around 15% less than in normal business,” said Schaumeurg. “In comparison, this summer is very good. As an entrepreneur, this is extremely exciting and relieving. “

As Schaumeurg’s restaurant returns to normal, Tom Boenitz, co-owner of Pamela’s World on Front Street, said his jewelry store is skipping pre-pandemic sales.

“Our June sales have doubled this year compared to June 2019 and July is running at the same pace,” said Bönitz. “This summer was good; More cruise ships are coming up the river and we are seeing more foot traffic from them. “

On Front Street, the owner of the Mockingbird Bookshop, Terri Schurz, remarked, “So far, sales in July 2021 are higher than July 2020”.

Last summer, Schurz said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, up to five customers could be in store at the same time. This year the shop was able to overcome its capacity limit, “so I would say that we will almost double the number of pedestrians.”

“It feels like there are certainly more visitors in town, and there is general relief and joy that things are returning to normal,” said Schurz. “Business has improved, which is important for the bottom line, but also because we want to give Bath residents, the surrounding area and all visitors a feel for the place. It’s wonderful to hear the goings-on from the shopping groups reading to their children, asking each other which books they read and loved, and looking for recommendations. There is no such feeling of trepidation or a veil of fear floating around. “

Although she described 2020 as “terribly difficult,” Schurz said she was encouraged by locals who made efforts to shop locally during the pandemic.

“Reading was something that people could go on despite all the things we had to stop,” said Schurz. “It was a safe activity and a connection point. I never felt like I was closing due to a lack of shops and I am eternally grateful to Bath for that.

According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 91% of Bath residents had received the COVID-19 vaccine by Friday.

In Sagadahoc County, nearly 63% of the total population received the final dose of the vaccine by Sunday. According to state data, nearly 60% of Maine’s residents are fully vaccinated.

In Sagadahoc County, 1,477 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020 and 11 have died, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Maine CDC, 69,474 Mainers nationwide tested positive and 882 had died by Sunday.

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