LEWISTON — The city may soon place markers on sidewalks and other public rights-of-way to help local businesses maintain social distancing as they begin to reopen.

The plan is part of a larger city effort to help businesses maintain CDC safety guidelines during the pandemic — an effort that could also include more outdoor dining options as the summer approaches.

The City Council on Tuesday was slated to discuss the “social distancing markers” on sidewalks and other locations, which staff said is just one tactic businesses are considering in order to reopen while urging proper social distancing between customers.

According to Public Works Director Dale Doughty, so far only one business has requested permission to install the sidewalk markings, but the city expects more “as things open up.”

Doughty said Community Credit Union, at 144 Pine St., is working on a plan for its internal property and the sidewalk in anticipation of a June reopening.

Mayor Mark Cayer said Tuesday that the discussions are part of the city’s approach “of doing whatever we can to help businesses.”

“Whether it’s restaurants, retail, any business that’s struggling with how to do this safely,” he said.

Local convenience stores, gas stations and others might also be looked at to potentially receive outdoor markings for customers waiting in line.

Cayer said the social distancing markers will likely be the first of many changes the city will make to allow businesses more flexibility in serving customers. He said city department heads from police, the City Clerk’s office and more are meeting this week to discuss how to remove barriers for businesses.

Those discussions could include ways to allow restaurants to pursue outside dining, even in the downtown area.

According to Cayer and Michael Dostie, board chairman of Downtown Lewiston Association, the city has had preliminary discussions about setting up outdoor dining in Dufresne Plaza on Lisbon Street. It could potentially allow customers to get takeout from a local restaurant and use the plaza for dining.

However, both said several details still have to be ironed out, and that nearby restaurants are still assessing the best path forward as they look toward a June 1 reopening.

Dostie said that while some restaurants could have enough space to set up outdoor dining, others don’t, and could also be hindered by distancing guidelines for indoor dining. For instance he said, some would only be able to accommodate two outdoor tables based on the 6-foot distancing requirement.

“I think the city needs to do everything in its power to help businesses,” Dostie said. “I think it’s great the city is being proactive in spite of having extremely reduced resources. But, what can we do to help these restaurants that are essentially handcuffed by dining room size or sidewalk size.”

The city also recently approved relief programs related to additional Community Development Block Grant funding, including grants for local businesses to help pay for social distancing-related expenses or protective equipment for staff.

According to the council memo from Doughty, Lewiston’s urban environment features many businesses whose entrances are close to the right-of-way and lobbies with inadequate size “to accommodate social distancing of their anticipated customers.”

“They may need to use sidewalks and shoulders of the road to allow their customers to line up in a safe manner consistent with Maine CDC and the governor’s guidelines,” he said.

In order to allow the social distancing markers on public rights-of-way, the City Council will have to approve changes to a city ordinance. If adopted, the Public Works department will work with businesses on installations.

According to the memo, staff intends “to approve such requests as long as the materials used are appropriate.”

Doughty said the pavement markings will be white and consist of lines two to three inches thick, or dots or other generic icons such as footprints that are up to 8 inches in diameter. The paint will be pavement marking paint that can be purchased in most local hardware stores, and it’s anticipated that the markings will fade over the upcoming year.

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