ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A judge blocked Anne Arundel County’s dining ban just hours before it was set to take effect and said the county executive “appears to have relied on a selective interpretation of the data relating to COVID-19 matters that ignores or minimizes other sources of COVID-19 contact…”


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According to the temporary restraining order obtained by WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren, Judge William Mulford II said his injunction will last until December 28 when the county and restaurant owners will present their case at a 9 a.m. hearing.

“It is clear… that the restrictions on plaintiff’s businesses were applied in an inconsistent manner from other businesses that contribute significantly to COVID contact sources,” Judge Mulford wrote. “In other words, there appears at this stage to be an arbitrary and capricious application of restrictions to plaintiff’s businesses when compared to other business activities.”

County Executive Steuart Pittman first announced the indoor and outdoor dining ban last week. He abruptly reversed the new outdoor dining restrictions Wednesday morning.

“If the worst scenarios come through, we’re in real trouble in our hospitals. Restaurant closures impact that a lot,” Pittman told Hellgren. “…Not being able to get into a hospital when you need to is just something I’m not willing to accept. I have to do everything I can.”

Pittman’s revised outdoor dining order required tents to be 50 percent open.


Because of the judge’s order, indoor dining can now continue at 25 percent capacity and outdoor dining at 50 percent capacity, all under the terms of the previous executive order. You can read that order here.

Pittman said while the restrictions were going to be reevaluated in four weeks, they could change earlier than that “In reality, we assess it every single day,” he said.

Brian Bolter owns Dry 85 and Red Red Wine Bar in Annapolis and blasted the harsher restrictions. “I think it’s pathetic. I think we’re being jerked around by the emperor.”

He said he already let staff go in anticipation of the dining ban. “A week and a half before Christmas! They’re all on unemployment. I thought we were listening to science. If we were following the science, show us the science that says outdoor dining was dangerous.”


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Governor Larry Hogan has noted family gatherings are the number one spreader of the virus in Maryland according to contact tracing data.

“We’re not a major contributing factor to coronavirus… We’re low-hanging fruit. It’s easy to pick on restaurants, and that’s what is happening here, and it’s extraordinarily frustrating,” Bolter said.

County Executive Pittman notes he has set up a $2 million relief fund to help struggling restaurant workers.

“I will readily say that these restaurant workers in particular have been the ones who have suffered,” Pittman said of the economic impact.

He said restaurant workers can request gifts for their children through an expanded Toys For Tots portal open now through Friday, December 18 at 5 p.m.

Anyone in financial distress can call 410-222-FOOD, or click here.

Pittman also released the following statement on the judge’s restraining order involving dining restrictions:

“We are disappointed in Judge Mulford’s ruling granting a temporary restraining order of our COVID restrictions on in person dining. We believe the science from public health experts is clear and it shows that taking actions to limit situations where people gather without masks will prevent the spread of this virus and ultimately save lives. We look forward to a full hearing on the merits of the case and in the meantime are discussing other options to protect the health of our residents by limiting community spread and flattening the ongoing COVID surge in our county.”

The lawyer representing the restaurants fighting the restrictions said the Annapolis city attorney will also abide by the temporary restraining order on restaurants.

Anne Arundel County’s restrictions not related to restaurants did go into effect Wednesday night. They include stricter capacity limits at retail establishments and the casino.

You can read the new executive order here.

Here is a list of the new restrictions in effect as of Wednesday at 5 p.m.:

  • Personal Services Establishments (hair stylist, nail salons, barbers) – decreased to 25% of that Establishment’s Maximum Occupancy.
  • Religious Facility – decreased to 33% of that Religious Facility’s Maximum Occupancy. A Religious Facility may hold outdoor services for Christmas, Hanukkah or other recognized religious holidays with a gathering limit of no more than 250 persons, provided the Facility requires strict adherence to the Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
  • Retail Establishment – decreased to 25% capacity or for any Retail Establishment without a posted Maximum Occupancy, 150 square feet of public space per occupant.
  • Fellowship Addiction Recovery – decreased to 25% capacity or 50 persons, whichever is less.
  • Foodservice Establishments are restricted to carryout, delivery, curbside service, or outdoor dining only. Any covering over an outdoor seating area shall have no less than 50% of the sides up at all times and all service of food and alcohol must comply with the Governor’s Executive Order No. 20-11-17-01.
  • Food distribution sites (food pantries, etc.) that serve or donate food to people in need at no cost may continue to operate subject to Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
  • Foodservice Establishments located in food courts in indoor shopping malls – restricted to carryout, delivery or curbside service only.
  • Social Clubs including American Legion posts, VFW posts, and Elks Clubs, restricted to 25% capacity and no food or beverages service.
  • Indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. Outdoor social gatherings of more than 25 people remain prohibited.
    • “Social gatherings” does not include activities, facilities or venues that have a specific capacity limit or are ordered closed under this Local Executive Order No. 39.
    • “Social gatherings” includes family gatherings, parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, flea markets, yard sales, and other gatherings that are not associated with operating or patronizing a business that sells merchandise from a location with a posted Maximum Occupancy.
  • All organized sports and sports practices in Anne Arundel County, including private school sports, are suspended.
  • Private gyms and religious facilities with gyms or activity or play spaces may not allow those spaces to be used for sports, sports practices, or group fitness classes. Fitness Centers (as defined in the Governor’s Executive Order No. 20-11-17-01) may not allow sports or sports practices but may conduct classes or group fitness activities provided said activities are held in a space that provides at least 150 square feet per participant and the total number of persons permitted does not exceed 25% of its Maximum Occupancy. All staff and customers shall wear face coverings at all times and meet the Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
  • Gaming Facilities (casinos) are restricted to 25% capacity and no alcohol or food service except for carryout, delivery or curbside service.
  • Bowling alleys are restricted to 25% capacity and no alcohol or food service.
  • Roller rinks and indoor ice rinks are restricted to no more than 10 persons on the ice or on the rink at any one time, and no more than 10 additional persons who are non-employees may be in the facility at any one time.
  • Electronic bingo (no live call) is permitted, provided it is held in a space that provides at least 150 square feet per occupant, and provided the total number of persons permitted in any such facility at any one time shall not exceed 25% of that facility’s Maximum Occupancy.
  • Indoor Theaters are closed.
  • Indoor or outdoor venues for live performances are closed.
  • All Outdoor Sporting Venues, including professional, semi-professional, amateur, recreational, collegiate, high school and motor sports venues, are closed, except that professional or collegiate sports at an Outdoor Sporting Venue may be conducted provided spectators are not permitted.
  • Adult Entertainment venues are closed.
  • Cigar and hookah lounges are closed but may sell retail products.
  • Local annual license fees for Foodservice Establishments are waived and deemed paid for calendar year 2021.
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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.