Lewiston mayor Mark Cayer stands in front of Lewiston City Hall on Friday afternoon, March 20, 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Mayor Mark Cayer issued a community call to action Friday to support local businesses, which he said are in grave danger of closing due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Lewiston’s largest employer consists of local businesses who employ our neighbors — our friends and family members,” he said in a news release late Friday. “These businesses need your help more than ever.”

While Gov. Janet Mills has ordered all restaurants and bars to close to dine-in customers, those that are able have attempted to adapt through takeout or delivery options.

While the initial order is good for two weeks, many believe the sweeping closures will be extended.

“Two weeks of no income or reduced income threatens the survival of our local businesses,” Cayer said. “In fact, right now, our community is at risk of losing 40% to 50% of its businesses.”

Cayer said residents must do what they can to support local businesses, either by ordering food to-go from local restaurants or buying curbside pickup or delivery from retail stores. Some local breweries, he said, are finding creative ways to continue customer sales.

Earlier this week, as cities such as Portland and Bangor began issuing citywide orders to close dine-in businesses, Cayer said he was not ready to make a similar call in Lewiston. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, as officials declared a city emergency, he said everything was on the table, but the city must be careful about the impact to the local economy.

During the meeting, he said that rather than bailing out the cruise industry, the federal government should be bailing out “Main Street businesses.”

Mills’ executive order Wednesday allows restaurants to continue offering takeout, drive-through and home-delivery service, but prohibits patrons from eating or drinking inside those businesses.

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer sits in his office in City Hall on Friday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“From flower shops to variety stores and from retailers to service providers, they need us today,” Cayer said Friday. “Each transaction makes an immediate impact for our local businesses who have given so much to this city.”

He urged residents who aren’t comfortable with pickup or delivery options to purchase gift cards online or by phone.

Cayer also called upon Lewiston’s largest businesses and institutions, including the city, its public schools, Bates College, Central Maine Medical Center, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, and “any other business on solid footing to immediately find innovative ways to shift as much purchasing as they can to our local small businesses.”

“Residents and larger businesses, if you can show your commitment to our community during this difficult time by buying something from a Lewiston establishment, it will make a difference,” he said.

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