Adding Outside Dining to Your Portland Maine Restaurant

Portland and South Portland Maine recently passed ordinances expanding outdoor seating options for local restaurants. These respond to indications that coronavirus is less likely to spread outdoors. Soon, some local restaurants will be able to serve patrons :

  • on sidewalks
  • in parking lots or closed streets
  • in on-street parklets.

Transitioning a Restaurant to Outdoor Dining

Outdoor dining isn’t for every restaurant. Depending on your cuisine, location, formality and clientele, you may choose not to serve al fresco. If you do, here are some things to consider.

  1. Check city rules and resources. Portland and South Portland city web sites have the ordinances and applications for permits and street closures.
  2. Up your cleaning game. During the COVID threat, you’re already doing extra cleaning and disinfecting. Outside adds new cleaning challenges: pollen, dust, litter and even insects.
  3. Keep it light – and smooth. Make sure there’s enough light for employees and customers to see well. Paint or tape the edge of irregular surface levels. Avoid loose cords and other trip hazards.
  4. Watch the skies. That includes the sun. Plan your seating to avoid excessive sun exposure during meal service, if possible. Summer thunderstorms can develop fast. Have a plan to quickly evacuate your dining area and secure umbrellas and other furniture. That will help avoid injury and damage.
  5. Beware of vehicles. Create barriers between diners and vehicles – including bikes and scooters that might be on sidewalks.
  6. Watch outdoor flames. Keep propane heaters, cooking equipment and other heat sources away from flammables like fabrics and awnings.
  7. Check your insurance. Many liquor liability policies only cover you “on premises.” Does that extend to a parking lot or street? The same with property insurance for your outdoor seating and fixtures. Ask your agent about your insurance coverage.

Do you own a Portland Maine area restaurant, cafe, food truck, brewery or other food service business? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re local business owners, just like you. We offer a choice of Maine’s top business insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Doing Insurance Business Safely and Remotely

Right now, staying apart is staying safe. That includes when you buy insurance, file a claim, and repair vehicles or property.

Insurance is more necessary than ever. People value stability in uncertain times. Insurance delivers. You can do your insurance business in a low-contact, safe manner. You don’t have to sacrifice personal advice and service. Here’s how.

GET NO-TOUCH INSURANCE QUOTES

  • Get insurance quotes online. Most insurance agencies and companies offer online auto and home insurance quotes. Enter information about your vehicles and property and get quotes back. A good independent insurance agency can deliver several quotes at once. That helps you compare.
  • Get advice, not just quotes. It’s hard to know if you’re asking for the proper coverage online, or to compare the quotes you receive. That’s why most people prefer to consult an agent before they actually buy a policy. A tech-savvy insurance agent should be available by text, video or real-time chat as well as phone and email.

BUY INSURANCE REMOTELY

  • Read and sign documents electronically with e-mail, text and e-signature. These tools allow you to read and sign applications from anywhere. All you need is a computer or mobile device.
  • Use contactless payment. Most insurers accept credit cards or electronic checks using your bank account info. No need to leave home and go to the insurance office.

AVOID INSURANCE PEOPLE COMING TO YOUR HOME

Many insurers allow customers to complete a self-inspection. That usually involves answering questions about your home’s systems and emailing pictures.

In case of a claim, avoid an insurance company appraiser’s visit. Email or upload photos of your damage to the insurance adjuster.

CONTACT-FREE INSURANCE SERVICE and PAYMENTS

  • Use mobile apps. Most insurers have them. Download and use them to request changes, check on billing, make payments and file claims.
  • Don’t want to use an app? You can do many of the same things over the phone, email, video or text chat with your agent.

GET VIRTUAL INSURANCE COVERAGE REVIEWS

Modern tools allow you to meet virtually with your Insurance agent. They can even share documents with you by video. You can get personal service and answers to your questions quickly and safely, without leaving home.

DOWNLOAD INSURANCE DOCUMENTS

You don’t have to go into the insurance office to get policy documents. Here are some other ways:

  • Your insurance company’s app. Get documents on your mobile device.
  • Register for an insurance company account. Set one up and download the documents to your computer.
  • Use your agency account. Tech-forward insurance agencies offer online access. These allow you to view your policy information and download insurance documents.
  • Ask your agent to email or text your document to you.

FILE CLAIMS FROM THE SCENE

  1. Report online. Use your insurer’s mobile app to start a claim. Or register for a free account with your insurance company, and file online.
  2. Call the insurance company directly to report your claim.
  3. Call your agent who can explain your coverage, answer questions and help you file a claim.

DON’T SACRIFICE PERSONAL SERVICE

One advantage of having a local agent is that we know you and live where you do. That’s more important than ever in this era of physical separation.

Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance is a forward-thinking agency. We’ve invested in tools and ideas to provide personal advice to you easily and safely. Do you prefer text, video, phone, or a combination of all? Any way, you can get a local agent’s trusted insurance advice without venturing to our office.

Are you looking for a Maine insurance agent who can serve you safely in uncertain times? Call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. Or visit noyeshallallen.com.

Stay safe!

Continuing to Serve You – Remotely

Our office is closed, but we are ready to serve you. We’re working remotely while our area is most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.

We are available to serve you by:

At its core, insurance is about
SPREADING RISK and
HELPING OUR COMMUNITY.
Noyes Hall & Allen believes in these causes.

SPREADING RISK

Insurance customers pay a small amount of money to help those who suffer a catastrophe avoid financial disaster.

Health professionals tell us that limiting human contact now can “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 spread. The goal is to save capacity in the health care system for our most sick and vulnerable neighbors. We care about our clients, our co-workers and our community.

HELPING OUR COMMUNITY

Insurance contributes to the community in many ways. It pays for losses of course. It also enables people to buy vehicles and homes; to start businesses and hire people. Insurance promotes safety and risk education. It provides good jobs for thousands of families. It supports local economies and non-profits.

By closing our office and serving you remotely, we hope to reduce the community spread of a very serious virus. We want to practice public health safety and risk management. We live and work here, too. Working remotely also allows our team to be with their families. To provide care and comfort during a stressful time.

INDEPENDENT AND COMMITTED TO YOU

Noyes Hall & Allen has been locally owned since 1933. We’re independent – not beholden to any insurance company. That allows us to be committed to YOU, our clients.

We know that you need us. We’ve prepared for an interruption like this. While we’re closed, you can still accomplish anything that you normally do here. 

We hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and well. We remain independent and committed to you. We’re always happy to answer any questions about your insurance. Together, we will get through this tough time.

Should You Cancel Workers Comp Insurance When You Lay Off Employees?

If a business downturn causes you to lay off employees, you might want to cancel your workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp coverage is required when you hire someone. Without employees, it’s overhead you would like to cut.

But canceling your insurance isn’t always the best move. Here’s why.

Three Reasons Not to Cancel Workers’ Comp Too Quickly

  1. It’s hard to scale up again. Do you expect the downturn to be temporary? You will need to re-apply for workers’ comp when you hire employees again. This costs time, effort and money.
  2. You may lose valuable dividends. MEMIC, Maine’s largest workers’ comp insurer, has paid dividends several years in a row. If you cancel, your business has to wait 3 years to start earning dividends again.
  3. You may lose loss-free discounts. By canceling your policy, you lose the benefit of any loss-free discounts you’ve earned. When you re-start your policy, it takes time to accumulate those discounts again.

Cost-Cutting Alternatives to Canceling Your Workers’ Compensation Policy

  1. Reduce estimated payroll. Workers’ comp premiums are based upon payroll amounts. Layoffs mean lower payrolls, so it’s fine to reduce estimates. This may create a refund without actually canceling your policy.
  2. Change payment plans. Most workers’ comp insurers offer installment plans. Spreading payments may allow you to better match cash flow without losing benefits.

Updating your Maine workers’ comp policy may be smarter than canceling it altogether. Closing your business, or have no plans to hire for more than a year? Then it’s proper to cancel your workers’ comp insurance.

Maine Workers’ Compensation Insurance Questions?

For answers to your Maine workers’ compensation questions, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

Does Insurance Cover Loss of Business from Coronavirus?

UPDATED 4/2/2020

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease), has everyone’s attention. It’s changed behavior around the world, and now it’s here. Business owners feel it. Emergency declarations have forced many to close for the duration.

For those businesses remaining open, routines and procedures are completely disrupted. No more non-essential shopping, eating at restaurants or going to shows. No going out for drinks or coffee. Instead, people are stockpiling supplies, staying home, washing, disinfecting and keeping their distance.

COVID-19 is causing turmoil for businesses large and small. Inventory control and staffing are all messed up. Marketing and sales are on hold as clients and prospects are otherwise occupied.

What if Your Business Suffers due to Coronavirus?

Many businesses feel threatened.

  • What if fear causes my customers to stay home?
  • What if I can’t get inventory or supplies?
  • How can I keep my employees safe?
  • What if my employees get sick and can’t work?
  • What if I have to disinfect or close my workplace?
  • The government has restricted movement in my area.
  • What if economic fear or market changes cause me to lose sales?

Do My Policies Cover Business Interruption?

Unfortunately, business insurance is very unlikely to cover you against lost business due to Coronavirus. Even policies that provide “”business interruption” coverage exclude damage caused by communicable diseases. They also require physical damage to your premises by a covered peril, like fire or water.

If Not, Why Not?

You probably don’t care about the reason behind the exclusion, but there is one. Put simply, diseases are too uncertain for insurers to accurately price insurance to cover them.

Insurance companies have a lot of experience with fires, hurricanes, and other disasters. They know how to price insurance for that, and they know that these perils are local or regional in scope. They can collect enough premium from everyone to pay for the few who suffer a loss.

Viruses are extremely rare – or even unknown – until they’re widespread. And it’s hard to quantify a resulting drop in business. Profits and sales are subject to changing factors: weather, competition, consumer preferences. It’s very hard to put a dollar value on lost sales directly caused by a public health threat.

Should I File a Business Interruption Claim Anyway?

Although the chances of coverage are very small, each business situation is unique . Coronavirus is new for everyone. Insurers are trying to deal with it just like everyone else. Coverage interpretations and response may evolve.

No one wants to file a claim, only to have it denied. But, you may choose to anyway. Here are two reasons why it might be a good idea to file a claim with your insurer.

  1. By contract, insurance companies must investigate each claim to determine if coverage applies. If they find that coverage does not apply, they must show the wording in your insurance policy that precludes it.
  2. The government could create a relief program in the future that might apply to your loss of income. Government could also force insurers to create coverage, in spite of policy wording. Such government actions would probably require you to prove your loss. You might also have to show that your insurance policy provided no coverage for the incident.

Resources for Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

Congress passed the CARES Act in March, 2020 to help people and businesses weather the economic effect of Coronavirus. This Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act provides a good recap of the bill. It tells you how to apply for benefits, which are widespread. We encourage our affected clients to apply early if they’re affected.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million. The goal is to help small businesses overcome a temporary loss of revenue.  These are loans, not grants. They must be repaid.

The Maine CDC Coronavirus information page is a good resource for Maine businesses and citizens. It contains factual and timely information about the disease and its effect on our state.

We’re Here to Help our Neighbors

We are a local business. We live and work in Greater Portland. While insurance may not be able to help our clients directly, we still want to be accessible. We want to help where and how we can.

While our office is closed to the public, we’re available by phone, email or our website. Our insurance company partners also continue serving customers while keeping their employees safe.

Stay Safe

Public health scares and economic uncertainty create anxiety. Most business owners feel responsible for the safety of their employees and customers, as well as their loved ones.

We hope that all or our clients, friends and business partners remain safe and calm during these trying times. We’re here to answer your insurance questions.

In this anxious season, check on family and friends. Be kind to each other. Together, we can make it through.

Independent Contractors and Maine Workers Compensation

Hiring an independent contractor a great way to expand your company’s products and services without adding overhead. The right sub can make you look good.

Subcontractor or Employee?

By Maine law, a worker is an employee unless they meet tests to be an independent contractor. That makes them subject to employment tax and workers compensation. If your Maine business hires independents, here’s what you need to do.

Get Documentation from Subcontractors

Workers compensation charges sub costs as payroll unless you have proof of subcontractor status. That can be a very expensive surprise. And the bill is due in lump sum.

Reduce Your Maine Workers Comp Costs

Certificates of insurance and WCB266s are “get out of jail free” cards. Use them to avoid a costly workers compensation insurance audit.

For more Maine Workers Compensation insurance tips, contact Noyes Hall & Allen in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you!

Natural Disaster Prep for Your Businesses

Natural disasters are on the rise, putting business owners at risk of suffering damage or loss of business property. A big disaster can literally put you out of business.

If you own a business in Maine, your customers and employees depend on you to prepare for the worst. Commercial insurance from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance is one way to protect your business from disaster damage. Here are a few other ways to prep your small business for natural disasters.

Employee Disaster Readiness

  • Develop a plan for your employees, so they will know what to do in the event of a disaster.
  • Make sure that employees know who to contact and how to reach key personnel when needed.
  • Create an evacuation plan that employees can easily follow if they have to escape in a hurry.
  • Update new employees on disaster readiness so everyone is well-informed on what’s expected of them if disaster strikes.

Communicating with Clients after a Disaster

If your customers can’t reach you after a disaster, they may find someone else who can help. Don’t jeopardize your business. Have a plan to continue your operations, and let your customers know where to find you.

  • Have a plan in place to communicate with key clients after a disaster.
  • If your building is severely damaged, you may need to open a temporary location to continue operations. Thinking about possible options before disaster strikes can save valuable time following a disaster.

Protecting Essential Data after a Disaster

Make sure your primary data is backed up digitally to prevent loss in a disaster. This includes financial records, employee and customer information, and any other critical data you need to keep your business running. Cloud backup is the safest, most secure means of protecting essential data from natural disasters.

Commercial Insurance Coverage

Purchase adequate commercial insurance for your building, business equipment, and inventory. Just as important, be sure you have business interruption coverage. Many businesses have enough insurance to replace what they lose, but not enough to recover lost earnings. This can cause your business to fail.

Maine Business Insurance

For information on commercial insurance coverage and costs, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland, ME. We offer a choice of Maine’s top business insurance companies. We can help you find the right fit for your business. We’re independent and committed to you.

Does Commercial Insurance Cover Portable Business Equipment?

Commercial insurance protects a company or business owner from losses to buildings or equipment necessary for the operations. However, many Maine businesses rely on portable equipment to operate. So, does commercial coverage offer protection for essential portable equipment when it’s off the premises?

Coverage for Portable Equipment

Commercial insurance covers equipment, inventory and supplies located on the premises of the covered location. However, this may not extend to things that leave the premises. If you bring property to job sites or customer locations, portable equipment insurance may be necessary to prevent gaps and losses.

Portable equipment coverage is sometimes called an Inland Marine Floater. This coverage will protect electronic equipment and other contractor related items required to perform daily work-related tasks. Before selecting additional insurance, speak with an agent about current and future needs, and find out what options are currently available to get a complete layer of protection.

Protect Your Equipment on Job Sites

Considering a purchase of portable equipment for your business? Talk to an agent from an insurance company who can outline what steps are necessary to get comprehensive coverage. Although some protection may be offered by standard commercial insurance, navigating portable insurance coverage may be necessary.

If your business is located in Southern Maine,  contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer straightforward solutions from some of Maine’s top business insurance companies. That allows you to choose insurance that matches your business needs and provide you with peace of mind.

Getting the right combination of insurance to cover a business can be tricky. Don’t risk gaps and issues that could spell disaster. Consult with an agent from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance to get the coverage necessary to protect a business in Portland, ME and throughout the state.

What Happens When a Vehicle is Totaled in Maine?

When a crash or disaster seriously damages your vehicle, it’s stressful and confusing. If the damage is bad enough, an insurance company might declare your vehicle a total loss. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often to most of us. What does it really mean when your vehicle is totaled?

What Does it Mean When a Vehicle is Totaled?

A vehicle is a total loss when the cost to repair it exceeds a percentage of its value. The calculation method and ratio vary state to state. Some states use a flat percentage of the vehicle’s value as a threshold. Other states add the salvage or scrap value of the vehicle. That’s called the formula method. In general, it’s easier to total a vehicle using the formula method. That’s because the salvage value is added to the value of the vehicle before calculating the percentage.

Maine uses the formula method. Maine law considers a vehicle a total loss if the damage plus the scrap value exceeds 75% of the value.

For example:

Vehicle’s pre-loss Value Repair Cost Salvage Value Repair + SalvageTotaled?
$5280$3150$500$3650NO
$5280$3650$750$4400YES

My Car’s Worth More than the Repair Estimate. Why is it Totaled?

When an insurance company totals your car instead of paying the repair cost, they sell the salvage. The scrap value is considered part of the value of your vehicle. If it’s cheaper for the insurance company to pay you the value of your car and recover the salvage, they will. If it’s cheaper for them to repair your vehicle, they will do that.

In Maine, if the cost to repair plus the scrap value exceeds 75% of your vehicle’s value, the insurance company can total it.

Why 75%? Insurance companies know there’s often hidden damage after a serious loss. When the repair shop removes outer damaged parts, more damage is revealed. That increases the repair cost from their original estimate. So, insurance companies use 75% to provide a safety factor. That way, they’re not paying more to fix your vehicle than it’s worth.

Why Nicer Cars Are Easier to Total

High end cars cost more to fix. Their salvage value is also higher. So, the nicer your vehicle, the easier it is to reach the 75% threshold. A newer vehicle with a lot of cosmetic damage (e.g. hail) may have no mechanical issue and still be totaled. That’s because many expensive mechanical parts are still good, increasing the scrap value.

What Happens When My Vehicle is Totaled in Maine?

If your Maine vehicle is totaled, you essentially sell it to the insurance company. They pay you the pre-damage fair market value of the vehicle. You sign the title over to the insurance company. They keep the salvage value after selling it. Usually, it’s sold at auction.

Can You Keep Your Vehicle in Maine After It’s Totaled?

You can buy your unrepaired vehicle back from the insurance company for its salvage value. You still sell the vehicle to the insurance company by signing over the title. They pay you the pre-damage value of your vehicle, minus the salvage value. They sell you a Maine salvaged title for the salvage value.

Can I Drive a Vehicle With a Maine Salvaged Title?

No. Once there’s a salvage title, all of the work on the repair estimate MUST be done before you can drive the vehicle. You and the repair garage must complete and submit Form MVT-103 to Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

When the State of Maine approves your vehicle repairs, it issues a rebuilt title. A rebuilt titled vehicle is worth less than one with a regular title.

Many insurance companies will not offer comprehensive or collision coverage for a vehicle with a rebuilt title. That’s because it can be difficult to assess the fair value of the vehicle.

The Insurance Company Wants to Total My Vehicle. Do I Have to Accept That?

You have the right to get your own repair estimate and choose your own body shop. Can you find one that will repair your vehicle for less than the threshold? Your insurance company might agree and pay the repair cost. Remember: in Maine, the 75% threshold includes the scrap value of your vehicle.

Once an insurance company totals your vehicle, you have a salvage title. You must repair the vehicle to drive it.

What if the damage is mostly cosmetic, and the car drives fine? You have the option to withdraw your claim and avoid a salvage title.

An Example of Withdrawing a Claim

Assume that a hailstorm pounds your vehicle. Dozens of dents on the hood, roof and trunk; a broken windshield. But the vehicle drives fine, and the dents don’t bother you. You could withdraw your insurance claim and pay to repair your windshield “out of pocket”. Although your vehicle may not look great, you might be able to drive it for many more years.

What if you withdraw your claim and don’t repair the body damage? Your insurance company will probably remove comprehensive and collision coverage. That’s because they wouldn’t pay for future damage; they already consider it totaled. Makes sense.

If you switch insurance companies, it’s important to declare the prior damage to them. The new insurance company will likely exclude comprehensive and collision coverage, too.

Questions About Maine Auto Insurance?

Do you live in Southern Maine and have questions about your auto insurance? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you. We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred auto insurance companies.

Commercial Insurance to Protect Your Small Business

Small business owners are the heart of the American economy. Maybe you are not big enough to be listed on the Dow Jones Index, but your enterprise is what drives Main Street in towns across Maine. However, you should not get complacent. Small businesses are susceptible to lawsuits, workers compensation claims and other situations that they cannot handle as readily as large corporations. It is imperative that you have protection for these times.

To keep your business safe in times of adversity, you should consider comprehensive commercial insurance. Contact us at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance to speak with one of our agents today.

Following are examples of commercial insurance that many small businesses in the Portland, ME region find beneficial, along with some factors used to decide which, and how much, insurance to purchase.

Liability

These policies can protect you when held liable for harm done to another.

A customer or supplier who comes into contact with your business may get injured or sick for example. You will then need funds to take care of medical bills or legal fees. Liability policies can help defray certain of these costs.

Commercial Auto

If your business uses vehicles to transport things or people, then you will probably need some commercial auto insurance.

It is best not to rely on your personal auto insurance, even if you do use your everyday car for these purposes. Commercial auto insurance policies usually cover situations that your personal auto insurance will not.

Errors and Omissions

It is imperative that professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and others who work independently, have error and omissions insurance. These policies help individuals who provide services and dispense advice when they are charged with negligence.

As you never know when a client may be dissatisfied with your work, it is best to have adequate errors and omissions insurance in place at all times.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Policy:

  • Annual revenue

  • Location

  • Number of employees

  • Rent

Get More Information Today

Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance today to learn more about specific commercial insurance policies in the Portland, ME area and beyond.