ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said the state should “move as quickly as possible” to allow restaurants to set up outdoor seating to allow customers to dine at their establishments.

Franchot made his comments during a public works board meeting Wednesday morning, saying restaurants need some tools to help them remain open in the long run, the comptroller’s chief of staff Len Foxwell said.

Restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic; the Restaurant Association of Maryland projects one in four restaurants will close permanently because of COVID-19.

Two well-known Baltimore restaurants, Ryleigh’s Oysters in Federal Hill and City Cafe in Mount Vernon, have already announced they will not reopen their doors.

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A number of restaurant owners in Little Italy are also calling on leaders to allow them to set up tables outside to allow for socially distant dining.

Without it, some could be forced to close.

“In a few weeks, if we continue at this rate, they’ll be nothing left to save,” Sergio Vitali, Chef and Owner of Aldo’s Ristorante, told WJZ Tuesday.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the city’s small business task force is working with restaurant owners but added orders at the state level don’t allow restaurants to reopen even with outdoor seating.

“If they open, they’re breaking the law,” Young said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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