Portsmouth’s spike in COVID-19 cases spurs restaurant shutdowns


Evan Edmonds

A recent increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Portsmouth, New Hampshire has been linked to several Portsmouth restaurants and led to temporary closures. 

According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS) COVID-19 dashboard, there are 30 cases in Portsmouth as of Oct. 20 – the most cases in the Seacoast area. Restaurants that recently closed include the Friendly Toast, Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe – both expected to reopen on Tuesday – while The Rosa and Flatbread Company have reopened for takeout only. According to Seacoast Online, there have been additional closures including Legends Billiards and Tavern, Daniel Street Tavern, and Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery, Maine. 

None of the restaurants have been required to close, but have done so as a safety precaution. A post on The Rosa’s Facebook page said, “In the best interest of the community and our staff we deem it necessary to close temporarily,” in their announcement of a positive case in an employee.  

Portsmouth City Councilor Deaglan McEachern said he’s been impressed with how seriously Portsmouth restaurants have taken the COVID-19 precautions in the past few months. 

“The restaurants I’ve been to, at least, have done a fantastic job,” he said. McEachern also said restaurants have had a strong compliance to the rules and owners have been proactive with customers and employees. 

Similar to The Rosa, several restaurants have elected to close for the safety of employees and the Portsmouth community, taking shutting down and cleaning very seriously. 

Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe reopened Tuesday night but has kept their bar seating closed while they install barriers “for the safety of our staff and guests,” according to. 

Restaurants that have closed in wake of a positive coronavirus case have done so due to an “abundance of caution,” as it says on the Jumpin’ Jay’s Facebook page, to ensure the safety of customers and staff, as well as keep Portsmouth safe for visitors. “There’s no economic activity without health,” McEachern said, which makes it even more important that restaurants have taken the processes so seriously. 

The town of Portsmouth put in place a mask mandate ordinance on Sept. 15 that remains until Jan. 4, 2021. Non-compliance results in a civil citation enforced by the Portsmouth Police Department. 

Durham’s mask mandate was put into effect on Aug. 3 in preparation of UNH students’ return to campus. The September to January mandate in Portsmouth was made to “protect the public health,” especially in preparation for the winter months and the volume of visitors enjoying the last few weeks of warmer weather. 

McEachern said part of the purpose of the mandate is to better educate people on the importance of masks and social distancing: signs around town for example indicating to people “this is something important.” He said Portsmouth is trying to get ahead of the curve in preparation for an expected increase going into the colder months.  

More people congregating inside of restaurants when the weather gets colder is a concern amidst the pandemic. McEachern said Portsmouth will be reliant on surrounding communities, like Massachusetts, to do their part to keep everyone safe. 

Portsmouth council members worked to extend outdoor dining as well, McEachern said, to make it safer to keep the restaurants open as long as weather permits. As of now, outdoor dining will extend through the month of November. 

McEachern said to Portsmouth’s visitors from UNH and elsewhere: “We ask that you treat Portsmouth as your own – as something that you care about.” 

Photo courtesy of Evan Edmonds