Tourists flock to Portsmouth every summer. This year, those who have been personally affected by COVID-19 say the city’s historic charm, shops and restaurants are especially appreciated.
Maria Pallozzi of Conway was relaxing July 7 at Poco’s Bow Street Cantina with Samantha Monks of Athol, Mass. The two graduated from Keene State College this spring, but had not been able to celebrate their accomplishments in person because commencement ceremonies won’t take place until the fall.
“It’s nice to finally live again,” Pallozzi said.
At Dunbar Square Restaurant in Market Square, Nathan McVeigh was having lunch with his 9-year-old daughter, Diana.
They were visiting family members in the area and are from Fiskdale, Mass. McVeigh works in Rhode Island and said he has lost people he knew to COVID-19.
“It was really bad in Rhode Island,” McVeigh said.
In addition to trying Nepal-style cooking, McVeigh checked out the historic character of downtown Portsmouth during his stay.
“It’s a beautiful city, with the Colonial feel,” McVeigh said.
Abigail Roth of York, Maine, Maria Dinisco, of Newton, Mass., and Sophia Gallant, of Sterling, N.J., were enjoying some retail therapy. Dinisco and Gallant had bags in their hands from the boutique Em & Elle on Pleasant Street.
“We’re leaving tomorrow and wanted to do some shopping,” Gallant said.
Signs outside the shops indicated that many of the small boutiques are limiting the number of customers to between two and six at a time.
Restaurants throughout the city have expanded outdoor dining as COVID-19 restrictions have eased.
Arlene and John Tommasini of Portsmouth were eating lunch outside at Popovers on the Square on Congress Street. Popovers typically has outdoor dining during the spring and summer.
The Tommasinis said they would like to see restaurants that have not previously offered al fresco dining continue to do so.
“It’s very inviting,” Arlene Tommasini said.
Restaurant owners say that when the weather is nice, they are reaching full capacity, but it can be hard when the forecast is not favorable.
“When there’s a chance of rain, it’s very slow,” said John Akar, co-owner of Cava Tapas & Wine Bar on Commercial Alley, which has an outdoor patio.
Akar said there are not as many people out at usual.
“It doesn’t look like Portsmouth in June and July,” Akar said.
Nimi Idnani, owner of Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery, said there is still an odd vibe in Portsmouth because of COVID-19.
Idnani said the restaurant is trying to lighten spirits with build-your-own mimosa specials at brunch.
“On the dinner side, we’re keeping a smaller menu, but we’re trying to make it a little more fun and casual, so we’re always doing a sandwich on our menu and a pasta, and we’re working with the local farmers for everything else,” Idnani said.
Idnani said Tuckaway Farm in Lee has been providing the restaurant with beautiful vegetables. They also buy their seafood from local fishermen.
Amanda McSharry is the co-owner of The Sailmaker’s House on Court Street and Water Street Inn in Kittery, Maine. She said the two establishments are taking reservations for guests; they are booking rooms for August and September.
“A lot of them are visiting people or they are on their way up to Maine,” McSharry said.
Valerie Rochon is president of The Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth. She said during a July 8 meeting with retailers that they reported seeing an increase in foot traffic over the Fourth of July weekend.
“There’s a lot more feet on the street,” Rochon said.