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Proposal aimed at allowing businesses to use sidewalks to meet social distancing requirements

Rockland mulls closing downtown Main Street to vehicle traffic during June

By Stephen Betts | Apr 29, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council will consider whether to close a section of Main Street to vehicle traffic during June.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council will consider whether to close the downtown to vehicle traffic during June in an effort to allow merchants to sell their wares outside.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its agenda setting meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 4.

Rockland Main Street Inc. Executive Director David Gogel said he is really in favor of the proposal.

"This would be a great thing for downtown businesses," Gogel said, saying it would create an open air market.

He said the idea is not to attract large crowds but to allow businesses additional space and be able to meet the physical distancing requirement.

The proposal would allow the city manager to close Main Street, from Park Street to Summer Street, from June 1 through June 30.

Businesses in the downtown zone would could use the sidewalks adjacent to their businesses to display merchandise and conduct business provided that it meets the physical distance requirement.

Restaurants would be allowed to place tables and chairs, and serve food and beverages, including alcohol, on the sidewalk, provided that the area where alcohol is to be served is cordoned off from the public and monitored at all times by an employee to ensure compliance with state and local requirements.

A sufficient travel way along Main Street would be maintained to allow for emergency vehicles.

Many downtown businesses have been closed while others have turned to curbside delivery during the past six weeks following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Gogel said downtown businesses are looking for additional details concerning Gov. Janet Mills' plan to reopen businesses.

The City Council meeting, to be held via the online platform Zoom, can be viewed online on the city web site as well as on the government cable access channel 1303. City Manager Tom Luttrell said anyone who wants a question asked can email him at And anyone who wants to speak should also notify him and he will notify the mayor who will be able send out online invitations so they can participate in the meeting.

The manager said the city may need to get permission from the state since Main Street is part of Route 1.

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Comments (26)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 04, 2020 13:18

They are expecting the death rate to double by June first.  Please take that into consideration before making a decision.


Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 03, 2020 06:27

This was posted by the Maine Council of Churches:

* Communal singing poses serious risks! Scientific evidence shows that the forceful breathing action of singing disperses the plume of aerosolized droplets from a singer’s mouth much further than six feet. Public health officials have said that masks can’t completely contain such forcefully expelled mist. Tests have proven that microscopic ‘droplet nuclei’ that can contain the virus remain suspended in the air for up to 3 hours. After a March 10 choir practice at a church in Washington state (where no one was coughing, sneezing or noticeably ill), despite the use of hand sanitizer and social distancing, and refraining from hugs and handshakes, within five days, 45 of the 60 choir members contracted COVID19, three were eventually hospitalized and two died. Infectious disease researchers categorized this rehearsal as a “super-spreading event.” No congregation wants their worship service to become such an event, so please make decisions accordingly!

Posted by: Joseph Steinberger | May 02, 2020 13:07

I have two concerns.
One is as a business owner on Main Street. My wife Keiko is earning a living and keeping her staff employed at Suzuki’s Sushi Bar by offering take-out. We are grateful that the city has reserved a space on Maine Street in front of her restaurant for her customers to stop to pick up their order. If they have to find a parking space some distance away, walk to Suzuki’s, and then carry their packages back to the car, I worry that some of them may be discouraged from coming.
My other concern is that a hasty move to close Main Street may, for lack of sufficient reflection and preparation, have serious unintended consequences, with a strong negative public reaction. This would make it much harder to build public support for a permanent Main Street pedestrian zone, something that could be a very positive feature for our city.
Perhaps the Council could start by closing Main Street to vehicles for a Saturday afternoon and evening and see how it goes.

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | May 01, 2020 12:47

Even in the middle of summer, there is always parking on streets to the west of Union Street. I think that many of the spaces in the post office lot can be made handicap only, as well as the lot behind Rock City.

It will be interesting to see Union Street as a two way street again.

Posted by: Bill Packard | May 01, 2020 09:06

I assume that would include closing the streets between Main and Union.  No way to turn around at Main St.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | May 01, 2020 06:28

Ananur, the street would be open enough to allow emergency vehicles to pass under this proposal.

Posted by: Alan Heal | May 01, 2020 06:07


Posted by: Nina Reed | May 01, 2020 04:01

i remember when every summer the stores had side walk sales and never closed the street to traffic. patricia williams

Posted by: Daniel G Benson | May 01, 2020 03:15

I think this is a great idea and this is the onion:

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Apr 30, 2020 22:23

what about the fire department if they need to use Main Street?

Posted by: Bill Packard | Apr 30, 2020 18:39

With the 14 day quarantine for visitors, this is probably a mute issue. There may be locals who take advantage, but I doubt they will overcome the losses from the quarantine.  Main St, likely will look very different this fall.


Posted by: Valerie Wass | Apr 30, 2020 16:45

Biggest issue to stop this from happening would be parking.  Heck to bad we couldn't put a huge canopy over Main St. from Park St to Summer St.  That would be so awesome!!!

Posted by: Sandra Wright | Apr 30, 2020 14:49

Terrible idea, there are 18 wheelers that go down that stretch on a daily basis that need to get into the ferry terminal because they are going to the islands to supply them with freight and groceries. Navigating the smaller side streets to get to the terminal is a nightmare in a vehicle that size.

Posted by: Lynne Barnard | Apr 30, 2020 13:40

This is an incredible historic opportunity for Rockland to show it's resourcefulness and commitment to our community.  We can become the role model if we do this right.  We, as citizens of this city, all need to back this plan and then show up with our brooms, muscle, and great ideas to make this happen.  This is also a terrific opportunity to bring the young people who have been stuck at home while being "home schooled" to get involved and learn lessons about contributing to making a wonderful future for themselves.  I'm in!!!  Let's do it!!!!

Posted by: George Terrien | Apr 30, 2020 10:12

Do it!

Our future WILL not put us "back to normal" as touted.  So, let's make it better than it has been!

This is a great start, and one demonstrated in other towns, cities, and countries, as providing great benefit measured every-which-way.

Posted by: C B Bliss | Apr 30, 2020 10:03

I am in favor of a re-envisioning of downtown to create pedestrian/public areas on Main Street. Creating open spaces for businesses to expand onto the street will make them more inviting and, in the time of COVID, make them safer spaces for people to gather. There are great success stories in other cities. Here is a terrific opportunity to think in a new way and encourage a people-centric (not car-centric)  downtown. A great place to start is the website (Project for Public Spaces). "It takes a PLACE to create community and a COMMUNITY to create a place." We have a unique downtown "PLACE" that lends itself to an ever-evolving re-imagining. Yes, new circulation needs to be considered, but I believe that some of the blueprint already exists with the experience of First Friday and other summer downtown events. We are a uniquely creative "COMMUNITY" that has the interest to rethink Rockland's future.

Posted by: Wyatt Anderson | Apr 30, 2020 09:28

Not a good idea!

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 30, 2020 09:18

Simply amazing how it takes a world wide pandemic to awaken Rockland to what has been happening all around them for years.  No matter where you travel in the U.S. Downtown areas in order to revive sagging retail business have developed ways to make themselves more pedestrian friendly with outdoor cafe's, wider sidewalks and more green space.  Rockland has turned a deaf ear to many proposals over the years to do all these.  I have been told many times by city officials that you can not limit or remove traffic on Main st because it is Route one.  You could at least divert traffic to Route 1A (Broadway) or prohibit trucks and buses.  Non of these ideas are even considered.  Well now when we are on the brink of extinction they are at least being talked about.


Posted by: Victoria Charkut | Apr 30, 2020 08:59

Great Idea.  Especially for us women who like to shop but don't want to go into stores.  We don't need all the cars all the time driving down Main Street.  Isn't it funny the people who say it's a terrible idea are men?  And if not an all the time thing, why not between 9 and 5?  I hope this happens!  And also eating outdoors although there's not a lot of room for distancing.  I hope Director Gogel can get this happening!

Posted by: ananur forma | Apr 30, 2020 08:42

I like this idea ONLY if we are ALL wearing our masks. I want very much for Rockland to thrive.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 30, 2020 04:56

Excuse me, is this "The Onion?"


Posted by: Ronald Dyer | Apr 29, 2020 22:41

This is nothing new under the sun. They've floated this idea for years. Even in the years before Main Street became hipster central with the coming of the "art and cappuccino mob". The problem has always been the need for parking on Main Street for both customers and deliveries.

The crisis has just given new life to it is all.

Posted by: Gregg Haining | Apr 29, 2020 19:56

If this is what it takes to allow Main St businesses to open, it is worth considering. Sounds very French! Reminds me of Paris and Montreal.


Posted by: claire perry | Apr 29, 2020 18:18

I'm willing to give it a listen !

Posted by: Carleton Ingerson | Apr 29, 2020 17:48

What a hairbrained idea that is

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 29, 2020 17:29


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