BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As coronavirus-related restrictions continue to be eased across Maryland, restaurants say they’re still hurting. They’re hoping the first-ever Maryland Restaurant Week will be a welcome boost for business.

Most of Maryland moved into phase three of the reopening process on Friday, increasing indoor dining capacity to 50 percent just in time for Labor Day weekend.

“They’re inching their way back to normal, but they’re nowhere near there yet,” Marshall Weston, the president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said.

First-Ever Maryland Restaurant Week Begins On Friday

According to the group, restaurants in the state have lost $1.4 billion in sales due to the pandemic. Weston projects as many as 40 percent of restaurants in the state could close permanently if dining restrictions remain in place and customers stay away.

The new restaurant week is an attempt to prevent that.

“This gives a week where everyone can find a favorite restaurant or find something new and really support the restaurant industry,” he said.

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Unlike traditional restaurant weeks, there are no course requirements of prix-fixe menus. Each restaurant can offer special menus or discounts for dine-in, curbside or carryout dining.

“We desperately need it,” Steve DeCastro with Ruth’s Chris Steak House said. “The whole industry needs it, and I hope people come out and feel good and feel safe.”

The Ruth’s Chris location in Pikesville is offering a special three-course dinner for the event.

Those in the restaurant industry say by supporting restaurants, customers are also supporting employees and their communities.

Maryland Restaurant Week runs from September 18 through 27 and will include numerous restaurants in nearly every county. More are signing up daily.

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.

Sean Streicher

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