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.

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!

Does Tax Revaluation Affect Maine Homeowners Insurance?

Several Portland Maine area cities and towns are conducting tax reassessment, including Scarborough and Portland. They call it “revaluation”, which sounds a lot less threatening. But the result is the same: to adjust property taxes.

Property tax revaluation is a zero sum exercise. Some property owners pay less in taxes, while others pay more. Although a municipality’s total property valuation may increase due to revaluation, the tax rate is adjusted to generate the same revenue as before.

Tax assessments are based upon market value. Waterfront property owners and those in highly desirable areas will pay more taxes than an owner of similar property located in a less popular location. That’s because their property is worth more on the real estate market.

If My Home’s Tax Value Increases, Should I Increase my Homeowners Insurance?

Probably not, unless your assessment increase is due to a physical improvement in your property. Home insurance is based upon rebuilding cost, not market value. Market value includes acreage and landscaping. Your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover those things.

Your home’s location in town affects its market (tax assessment) value but not its rebuilding cost. Labor and material usually cost the same across town. So, unless you’ve increased your living space, built a garage or other outbuilding, or upgraded your kitchen or baths, you may not need to adjust your insurance amount.

Your Insurance Agent Can Help

Ask your insurance agent to recalculate the replacement cost of your home every few years. That helps to make sure you’re not buying too much insurance or too little. Don’t be surprised if the rebuilding cost differs significantly from the assessed value of your property. Remember, your insurance goal is to rebuild your home after a disaster, not buy it again.

Is Your Maine Home Insurance Adequate?

If you own property in the Greater Portland Maine area, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. Or, you can get Maine home insurance quotes online in 10 minutes from noyeshallallen.com

Your Noyes Hall & Allen agent can help you determine the proper amount of insurance for your home. And we offer a choice of Maine’s preferred home insurance companies. We can compare quotes and coverage to find the best insurance value for your home. We’re independent and committed to you.

Portland Maine Area Short Term Rental Rules

Many cities and towns struggle to balance short term rental with affordable housing. Advocates for short term rental say it encourages property improvements and neighborhood revitalization. They believe private property owners use should be free from government intervention.


Short term rental opponents say owner occupancy and long term leases foster community. They argue that short term rental erodes that community. They also contend that STR contributes to high housing prices. By removing inventory from the market, STR reduces long term housing supply.


Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth Maine are not immune to short term rental controversy. Both passed STR ordinances in 2018 after contentious debate. These laws restrict the time, place and type of short term rental activity. You can find recaps of Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth STR regulations at the bottom of the page.

Insurance for Short Term Rentals in Maine

Thinking of renting your Maine property on AirBnb, HomeAway, VRBO or another short term rental platform? Check with your insurance agent. You may need special insurance to protect yourself. STR platforms also include insurance for hosts. Most of this insurance is supplemental. It’s not intended to replace your primary insurance policy.

If you need insurance for your short term rental property in the Portland Maine area, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. If you meet Portland or South Portland’s STR laws, we may help you choose the best insurance value. We’re independent and committed to you.

Portland Maine Short Term Rental Law

This information is current as of 12/1/18 (Code of Ordinances Sec 6-150 et seq.)

  • Short-term rental operators must register yearly and pay a fee.
  • Maximum of 400 unhosted units allowed on mainland.
  • Property owners may register up to 5 STR units combined.
  • Up to 5 units within primary residence (bedrooms, separate spaces, etc.)
  • Non-owner-occupied single-family homes and condominium units may not be rented out short term.
  • Only homes or apartments used as a primary residence can be registered as owner-occupied.
  • No more than two short-term rental guests are allowed per bedroom. Two more may use other areas for sleeping.
  • multi-unit buildings have their own rules (below)
Portland Maine multi-unit building STR limits

South Portland Maine Short Term Rental Law

Current as of 1/1/2019 (Ordinance #22-17/18)

  • Unhosted non-owner-occupied short-term rentals prohibited in residential zones (single-family home owners may rent their primary homes up to 14 days per year).
  • Owner-occupied short-term rentals allowed under certain conditions in residential zones.
  • Requires city-issued registration number in STR advertisement
  • Short-term rental operators must register yearly and pay a fee.
  • Short-term rental operators must also be inspected, insured, and licensed by the city and collect Maine sales tax.
  • No more than two short-term rental guests are allowed per bedroom and six total per occupancy.

Cape Elizabeth Maine Short Term Rental Law

Current as of 1/1/2019 (Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 19)

  • Apply to Town Code Enforcement Officer for a STR permit.
  • No permit required for < 14 days per year
  • For non-owner occupied properties,
    • No more than 12 tenants at a time from May 1 to October 31
    • No more than 2 tenants per bedroom.
    • No more than 8 tenants at a time.
    • No more than 2 weeks rental per month
    • 7 day minimum rental period

Maine Sales Tax on Short Term Rentals

The State of Maine requires owners of “casual rental” property to pay 9% sales tax. Properties rented fewer than 15 days per year are exempt. For more information about sales tax on short term rental, see Maine Revenue Services Bulletin 32.

What Does an Insurance Agent Do After a Claim?

No one enjoys making an insurance claim. Something bad happened. You need it fixed. Soon. So much to do! Repair a car or building. Run a business. Get a temporary vehicle. Find a place to live or work. Heal from an injury. Replace damaged or stolen property. Deal with another party after the accident. Stress!

It’s an inconvenience you didn’t need. But, that’s why you bought insurance, right? It’s time for policy to do what it promises: fix you.

Insurance is a Two-Party Contract

Your insurance policy is a written contract between you and your insurance company. No one can change it after a claim. Your contract makes you responsible for certain things. The insurance company too. The policy specifies what’s covered, what’s not, and how losses are paid.

If you purchased your policy from an agent, they can help you through the process. But some things you have to do yourself.

Things only YOU can do in an insurance claim:

  • Make a statement about what happened to insurance companies
  • Prove your loss
  • Choose a contractor or repair shop (some companies have preferred contractors or shops, but cannot force you to use them)
  • Accept or reject a settlement

Things only your ADJUSTER can do in an insurance claim:

  • Determine whether your policy covers your loss
  • Decide who’s at fault in claims involving more than one party
  • Evaluate and pay claims

Some claims never involve anyone but you and the insurance company.  You report it directly to the insurance company. The claim is minor. Settlement is simple. Everything goes smoothly. Other claims are more complex.

You never know which kind of claim you will have. That’s why it’s good to have an agent on your side. Not to mention for the advice they can give you the 99.9% of the time when you’re NOT having a claim.

What Use Is an INSURANCE AGENT after a Claim?

A good insurance agent:

  • Helps you decide whether to make a claim at all.  Is your claim clearly not covered? If it is clearly covered, what’s your policy deductible? Is your insurance cost likely to increase if you make this claim? How much? An agent can answer these initial questions so you can decide whether you want to make a claim at all.
  • Is your insurance sherpa. There’s a lot to know and remember. Report your claim to your insurance company or someone else’s. Protect your property. Gather information you’ll need later. Find a temporary solution until the adjuster can take over. An experienced agent is your sherpa in foreign territory.
  • Is your claim cattle dog. Haven’t heard from your adjuster? Waiting for an appraisal? Having trouble preparing the reports the insurance company needs? A good agent can pull things together and herd your claim in the right direction.
  • Has clout with the insurance company. Agents help their clients to find good insurance companies. So insurers want to be on the agent’s “good list”. A trustworthy and knowledgeable agent earns the respect of the insurance company. They can use that to advocate on your behalf. An agent can’t create coverage where there isn’t, but they can influence the process.
  • Is an “insurance translator”. A good agent can explain the gobbledy-gook in that letter from your adjuster. They can tell you why the offered settlement may be different than you expected. They can explain to the adjuster, using insurance terms, it if it’s wrong. Your agent can even translate in real time, meeting with you and the adjuster face-to-face, to resolve issues.
  • Helps insurance companies get better. Want to let your insurance company know how your claim went? Compliment your adjuster? Complain about the company’s preferred service provider? Rave or rage about the service you received? Share advice for how to make it better? A good agent has a pipeline to the insurance company, and knows where to send the feedback to get the most impact.

Need Help With a Claim? Ask Your Agent!

Don’t assume that your agent knows how your claim is going. Insurance companies don’t routinely communicate with agents during a claim. If you need help, ask your agent. At Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance, we ask our clients if they need help a week after they file a claim on their policy. Many don’t need help. But for those who do we’re able to jump in and assist where needed. We believe that helps our clients’ claims go smoother than they might otherwise.

Do you own a business or live in the Portland Maine area? Looking for an experienced agent who represents several insurance companies? An agent who can help you choose the right insurer and be available if you have a claim? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. Or just click “get a quote” above. We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred business and personal insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Do Hurricanes and Wildfires In Other States Affect Maine Insurance Rates?     

Insurance companies pool risk. They collect money from many people to pay the losses of a few who have claims. Everyone’s rates go up or down, depending on the insurance company’s experience. More claims paid = higher rates.


You may be wondering:

  • How much do hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters affect insurance rates?
  • Do disasters in other states affect my insurance rates in Maine?

It’s helpful to understand how insurance companies price their product. Insurance rates are recommended by insurance company actuaries. They project how much money the insurance company must collect to pay claims and make a profit. This requires complex modeling and formulas. Actuaries recommend rate changes to a special committee of company executives. The committee compares the actuary’s recommendation to the company’s profitability and growth targets. They agree on a proposed rate change, and submit it to Maine insurance regulators.

The regulator’s job is to make sure that insurance rates are:

  • Adequate to pay claims
  • Not excessive
  • Not unfairly discriminatory.

Regulators may approve or deny the rate change, or ask for more information.

What Factors Affect Insurance Rates?

At its simplest, insurance is “money in…money out.”

Money In = Premium Collected

Cheap insurance rates may leave the insurance company with insufficient money to pay claims and make a profit. Rates that are too high may send customers fleeing to other insurers.

Money Out = Losses 

The most important determinant of insurance rates. More losses than expected puts pressure for the insurance company to raise rates. Fewer losses puts downward pressure on rates.

But here’s the rest of the story:

Insurance Company Financial Strength – Well-managed insurance companies keep adequate reserves to pay claims on a rainy day. Insurers with strong financials can weather a bad year without huge rate increases. Weaker ones need more frequent rate adjustments. The best way to learn the financial condition of an insurance company? A.M. Best tests the financial strength of insurers and assigns them a letter grade.

Type of Insurance Company – Mutual insurance companies are owned by their customers. After they pay claims, mutuals store their profits to pay future claims. Other insurance companies are stockholder owned. Stockholders expect a return on their investment. Investors pressure executives of publicly held companies to improve profits every quarter. This can lead to larger or more frequent rate increases to stay ahead of current losses.

Reinsurance – Almost every insurance company is also an insurance consumer. They buy insurance against “the big one”. This is called reinsurance. Most companies reinsure against annual total losses exceeding a certain amount. This dampens the impact of multiple hurricanes, fires or other disasters in one year.

Generally, larger insurers buy less reinsurance than smaller ones. Smaller insurers have less surplus, and thus are more vulnerable to catastrophic losses.

Of course, reinsurers are also insurance companies. They must collect more premium if they suffer unexpectedly large claims. Insurance companies pay different reinsurance rates based on their individual loss experience.

Do Disasters in Other States Affect My Insurance Rates?

Probably not as much as you think. Maine insurance regulators only allow insurers to file rates based upon Maine premium and losses. Claims that a company pays in California or Florida are not baked into Maine insurance rates.

BUT…

Insurance companies factor nationwide overhead costs into Maine rates. Cost like advertising, salaries – and reinsurance. Since events outside Maine influence reinsurance costs, they influence Maine customers’ rates. Just less than you might expect.