A return to normalcy in 2021?

SOMESVILLE, Dec. 15, 2020 – If there is optimism about next year you wouldn’t know it by driving around the island. Stalwarts such Havana and McKay’s Public House, which provided a warm hearth for locals for many years, have closed early.

“Losing a little money would be okay (justified by keeping some folks employed, keeping some people fed, etc.) but losing a lot of money each week just doesn’t make sense,” Havana owner Michael Boland posted on Facebook. Havana will offer take-out boxes for New Year’s Eve but “we find that we’re just not a to-go kind of place,” Boland stated. Havana is planning to re-open April 1.

Businesses “with good roots will emerge and re-open,” said Tony McKim, president of First National Bank in Bar Harbor. He worried about new businesses with “moderately strong business plans” but without a cushion of working capital.

McKim said MDI business had a “decent August and a good September” but then reverted to a down draft as Covid cases rose in the fall. Alf Anderson, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said this is the time of the year when businesses need to build inventory for next year and make repairs if necessary to equipment and that he fears some just won’t have the resources.

The plight of small businesses on MDI mirrors that of the attendance numbers in Acadia National Park – a 20-25 percent decline. The late surge in visitors in November was welcoming but made up a small percentage of overall annual attendance.

Eben Salvatore, chair of the cruise ship committee in Bar Harbor, took an informal poll of local banks recently and was alarmed by his findings. One bank, he said, handled $13 million in federal Payroll Protection loans and $64 million in mortgage deferrals on MDI. “Those are Wall Street numbers in our little town of Bar Harbor, so things are not fine.”

Salvatore works for Ocean Properties Inc., which operates a tender service for the cruise ships, and has a vested interest in painting a dark economic scenario which can be only rescued by, drum roll, MORE CRUISE SHIPS!

“The vaccine drives everything,” said McKim, expressing the hope that the second half of 2021 will return to some normalcy and that the Covid-19 vaccine will do it job.

Meanwhile, Southwest Harbor is the liveliest place on MDI, with two new restaurants, Hearth and Harbor and Next Level Sports Bar, testing the winter market, and Sips holding its own, although it will close for 10 days starting Dec. 21. Peter Trout on Manset’s Shore Road is offering takeout Friday through Sundays.

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