Could the Pandemic Bring Back the Drive-In as a Family Night Out in Maine?

Stephen L Dalton

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Bangor Drive-In Courtesy of the Bangor Daily News Source

Several changes were brought about by the pandemic that could stay in Maine even after the coronavirus resolves.

In Maine, since the pandemic, the drive-in has returned to popularity for theatergoers since most theaters have closed. Remember, as kids, mom and dad would cook a bunch of popcorn and put it in a huge paper shopping bag from the A & P or Shop & Save in downtown Old Town? They'd sprinkle in some salt and pour on some melted butter, then shake it up.

Well, unfortunately, the A & P, Shop & Save, and even paper bags are gone now, but the drive-in has made a recent comeback, mostly since the pandemic closed down the theaters.

With Driver-ins, everyone packs up a bunch of goodies and drinks, grabs some blankets and pillows, and piles into the car for a night out. It’s family bonding at its best. No need to worry about other patrons wearing a mask, you’re all family.

Some of Maine’s theaters re-opened on a limited seating basis, but most have closed again until after the pandemic is under control.

Certainly, the number of streaming services offering new films such as Netflix, Hulu, and others have cut into the need to go out to see a new movie; many of us just need to get out of the house or go stir crazy.

Drive-ins around Maine, in Bangor, Westbrook, and Saco have seen a rise in viewers since the pandemic. Is this something that could be maintained after the virus is under control? Most moviegoers hope that many more of the old drive-ins re-open.

Alcohol to Go

Since March of 2020, restaurants have enjoyed larger take-out orders due to Governor Mills’ Executive Order (EO) closing dine-in services and allowing alcohol services with take-out orders.

“All restaurants and bars shall close their dine-in facilities. Such businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so but eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited.”

According to the Governor’s EO, “cocktails to go” must meet the following criteria:

  • Beverages must accompany a food order and must be accompanied by a sales receipt with a time-stamp.
  • Containers cannot contain more than 4.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Be ready for consumption.
  • Be in a tamper-evident container, such as a glass crown-capped bottle, a screw-on bottle cap that breaks apart when opened, or a heat-sealed vacuum pouch.
  • Be affixed with a label that identifies the establishment that prepared the order and the alcoholic content or proof of the beverage.
  • Establishments can only provide drinks for their business.
  • Establishments must register with Maine Liquor to provide “cocktails to go.”

The EO started with wine and beer but was later expanded to include cocktails to increase food and beverage sales while the state focused on safety and closed indoor dining.

Is this something that could continue after the pandemic? Only time will tell.

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Vals Drive-In Restaurant Courtesy of WCYY 94.3 Radio

Another Benefit of the Indoor Dining Ban is Outdoor Dining

In Bangor’s downtown area, many restaurants and take-out establishments have chosen to open more seating in parking areas and even along the streets.

These measures have been popular for restaurant owners and customers. However, according to the Bangor Daily News, some municipalities like Exchange Street in the Old Port will not continue their closure this summer.

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Outdoor Dining Courtesy of the Author

Online Ordering for Pick-Up & Delivery

Target, Hannaford's, Walmart, and others have broadened their push for no-contact orders. Those who had previously not offered take-out, curbside service, or delivery have had to adjust.

Likewise, many students and others found a side hustle to make extra income from places like the Maine-based CarHop, GrubHub, DoorDash, and others. Those brick-and-mortar businesses without the capital to make the adjustments have had to close their doors; some are gone forever. That’s the nature of business, adapt or die.

Takeaways

Will the Maine public see a continuation of services like these? Will services like telehealth, drive-ins, outdoor dining, vote-by-mail, take-outs, curbside service, delivery, and others continue to grow in Maine or fade after the pandemic? Many are a welcome addition to how businesses provide services.

References:

The Governor Mills’ EO dated 18 March.

The Bangor Daily News article, Portland won’t barricade Exchange Street in 2nd pandemic summer dated 18 February by Nick Schroeder.

The Bangor Daily News article, 7 pandemic changes in Maine that are likely to stick around dated 20 February 2021 by Emily Burnham.

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Stephen Dalton is a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Top Writer in Virtual Reality, Sports, Short Story, Design, and Creativity. I especially like writing about design and home improvements.

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