The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen, on Wednesday, July 1, voted 4-1 to allow a downtown open-air market to continue through the month of July.
After a presentation by Susan Murphy, owner of Cupacity and the Gilbert E. Gay building, the selectmen decided to allow the market to continue as it has since June 13. Selectman Josh Pinkham cast the dissenting vote.
The market was open on three consecutive Saturdays in June, with downtown shops setting up tables, chairs, and stands in the space afforded by the closure of 12 parking spaces on the post office side of Main Street, beginning at the Damariscotta Center building and going toward the bridge.
The goal is to create an outdoor shopping experience that will provide more space for physical distancing and make visitors feel safer during the coronavirus emergency. The market will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday in July.
At the meeting, Murphy proposed blocking off the entirety of Main Street and diverting traffic through the municipal parking lot, but the selectmen opposed the idea, saying it would be too much of a logistical challenge.
“Speaking from experience of shutting Main Street down numerous times over my career in the firefighting service, it is not an easy task,” Pinkham said. He said it is hard for large recreational vehicles, tractor-trailer trucks, and other vehicles to navigate the back parking lot, especially with traffic congestion.
Murphy said the market did well on its first Saturday, June 13, but participation fell off in subsequent weeks, possibly due to the uncertainty over whether the market would continue past June.
“The first Saturday was great; the second Saturday was 90 degrees and everybody was at the beach. And by the third Saturday, pretty much people thought it wasn’t going to continue and they weren’t as enthusiastic,” Murphy said.
She said downtown businesses are suffering financially because of the slower tourism season and because many people are still not comfortable going inside shops due to the coronavirus emergency.
Murphy hopes to create more of an exciting atmosphere, saying she has contacted musicians and actors who may be willing to perform at the market.