2020 Winter Capacity FAQs

Updated: October 6, 2020

(1) What if 50% of my capacity is larger than 100 people?

The maximum capacity of indoor facilities is 100 people, although retailers remain subject to the 5 person per 1,000 square feet of shopping space occupancy limit.

(2) My capacity prior to COVID-19 was 30 people and I could seat 100 percent of them with more than 6 feet distance between tables. Do I have to newly limit capacity to 15 people including front-of-house staff?

Yes. With the arrival of colder temperatures, it is harder to keep air circulating in closed spaces. The 50% capacity limit, which is based on people per square foot, helps ensure distance and safety. That said, enforcement discretion will be applied to establishments that have been providing indoor seated service under the previous rules in adjusting to this change.

*Please note that these capacity figures are based on pre-pandemic configurations.

(3) Does the 100 people include staff?

Yes, the 100 people includes staff and guests.

(4) Does the 100 include kitchen staff who don’t interact with customers?

No, it only includes the staff that enter into and exit the gathering space.

(5) What does “seated service” mean?

Seated service means customers do not stand once served and stay seated with the group they came with. They do not move from table to table, stand consuming drinks or food, or stand listening to a speech or entertainment. Food, beverages, education, or entertainment such as movies are served.

(6) What types of businesses fall under seated service?

Restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, fast food restaurants with seating, social clubs, movie theaters, other entertainment venues with seating, churches and other religious organizations’ sites. Restaurants already open must adopt to this new guidance by October 13th. Bars and tasting rooms may newly reopen for indoor service on November 2nd. As with all reopening guidance, this is subject to a review of the quantitative and qualitative public health measures of COVID-19 transmission.

(7) Why November 2 start date for bars and tasting rooms?

Bars and tasting Rooms have not yet been open for indoor service. This is because of the nature of these settings, where people interact in close spaces, often speaking loudly, with limited face covering wearing since people are drinking. The additional time is for preparation, training, and other operational readiness actions. Public health officials also want to ensure that the number of new cases and positivity rate in Maine continues to remain stable. This is an important consideration given the higher COVID-19 transmission associated with this sector of the economy.

(8) What types of businesses do not fall under seated service and what rules apply to them?

Gyms, fitness centers, auditoriums without seating, airplane hangars, barns, indoor fairs or farmers’ markets. The current limit of 50 people and physical distancing rule still applies to such activities.

(9) Can we still use multiple rooms like we have been safely doing all summer?

The total occupancy of an establishment (combining indoor maximum of 100 and outdoor maximum of 100) must not exceed 200 people.

(10) How many people can we have outside? How do we count employees for that?

You can still have 100 people outside. Employees that enter and exit the space count toward that limit.

(11) What if my event has some seated and some non-seated activity? How many people can I have?

If there is non-seated activity in the same room as the seated activity, the 50-person limit applies.

(12) Can any bar re-open under the new Checklist?

To simplify and align guidance, one new Checklist applies to all seated service, including bars. Bars that follow the Checklist may reopen on November 2. Tasting rooms and bars may need to significantly change their operations to protect the public health. For example, such establishments cannot: allow people to stand or walk around while drinking, have live singing or playing of brass or woodwind instruments, open dance floors, or otherwise allow congregation of people in a small space.

(13) Can an indoor bar have standing service but admit less than 50 people?

No. Following the Checklist for seated services is needed for bars and tasting rooms re-opening for indoor service during the public health emergency.

(14) Are the rules for retail establishments – a total of 5 customers per 1,000 square feet of shopping space – changing?


(15) Do I have to require a mask if someone says they have a medical condition?

A. A person not wearing a required face covering who seeks to enter an establishment shall first be informed of the face covering requirements and given a chance to comply by putting on either a cloth face covering or plastic face shield. If that person continues to refuse and asserts a medical condition as the reason for the refusal, the operator of the establishment may offer alternative means of service at curbside or delivery if available as an accommodation, but may not permit the person to enter without a face covering. The establishment operator shall not ask for the nature of the medical condition, or ask for proof.

(16) Am I liable if I ask a customer refusing to wear a mask to leave?

No, so long as the business offered an accommodation such as offering a mask or face shield or suggested take out or other forms of service.

(17) Will law enforcement help my employees if a customer becomes belligerent regarding required masks?

Yes since the executive order on required face coverings has the force of law.