City of Portsmouth Moves Forward with Cautious Reopening

June 23, 2020

The Governor intends that most of New Hampshire will “open” by July 1st, having released retail stores, restaurants and recreational venues from his “Stay At Home” orders on June 15. The combination of three months of lost revenue, hesitant customers and the new State guidelines on occupancy, sanitizing and employee protections mean that most businesses in Portsmouth are reopening as reimagined establishments. City staff in conjunction with the Mayor and City Council have shifted their 24/7 response to the pandemic to an equally intensive effort to keep Portsmouth businesses and residents whole.

“While prioritizing the health precautions and advice of our Health Officer, such as encouraging people to wear masks in public spaces and requiring stores and restaurants to keep physical distancing, we all recognize that the City needs to take a proactive part in helping Portsmouth get back on its feet,” said City Manager Karen Conard. “As the Governor’s guidelines permit, we’ve tried to make reasonable and practical decisions such as allowing the Recreation Department to reopen playgrounds last week. We plan to open the Peirce Island Outdoor Pool on July 6. The City, Mayor and City Council are working on multiple other fronts to enable things to get back to a ‘new normal.’”

Response and relief initiatives launched in May and June include:

• Citizen Response Task Force, proposed by Assistant Mayor Splaine and Councilor McEachern, and appointed by Mayor Becksted met for the first time on June 9. The Task Force has 19 representatives of the business community, restaurant owners and managers, non-profit organizations from the arts community and health services, citizens, members of the Economic Development Commission, health care professionals, and City staff members including the City Manager and Health Officer. The Task Force has formed two subcommittees to look at creative alternatives for using spaces in the “public realm” including partially-closed downtown streets and the rooftop of Foundry Place Garage. The Task Force is meeting with residents and surveying businesses to determine what new uses will work best for the largest number. Interested individuals should email to weigh in. The subcommittees are working with DPW, Fire, Police, Inspections, Planning and the Health Department to turn concepts and their costs into practical reality, with the hope of having new ideas in place as soon as possible. For more information, click here.

• Clipper Strong Fund, proposed by Mayor Becksted, with a committee chaired by Councilors Kennedy and Tabor and assisted by members of the community has collected more than $40,000 and announced its first initiative: the distribution of a Clipper Strong Care Package of masks, a touchless thermometer and CDC customer guidelines signage to any small businesses who requests one (email For more information, click here.  

• Outdoor, Indoor and Public Realm Restaurant Permits. With a streamlined process in place, restaurants can apply for the necessary permits online. The City’s Working Group simplified the process to get restaurants with outdoor seating open, to help restaurants configure indoor seating for physical distancing and to kick start the use of City “public realm” spaces once the Task Force and City staff confirm a configuration. Complete instructions and sample table spacing diagrams are posted here.   

• City Manager’s Advisory is now published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a special edition on Sunday featuring a new work each week by Portsmouth Poet Laureate Tammi Truax. To sign up for the free e-newsletter, click here. The archive of all Advisories since March 12 is posted here.

News and information related to COVID-19 business relief programs, Recreation Department updates and resources for residents are posted regularly on the City website, City

Barricades on Pleasant St. for outdoor dining.