ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — In the only remaining legal challenge to restaurant restrictions in Maryland, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge criticized the county executive’s decision to restrict all indoor dining earlier this month.

Restaurant Lawsuit Dismissed, Anne Arundel County Officials To Maintain 25% Indoor Dining Capacity

“I can’t get my head around how I just ignore the fact most of the assumptions made were wrong,” Judge William Mulford told the county’s attorney. “It was based upon faulty data and assumptions that did not play out in reality.”

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and health officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman took the witness stand before both sides rested their case in the lawsuit brought by restaurant owners demanding to keep their businesses open.

Similar litigation to keep restaurants open in Baltimore City and other Maryland counties has failed.


“I was looking at numbers that quite frankly alarmed me,“ Pittman told the judge while explaining his order.

The county executive said he “may open indoor dining” in the future based on the latest metrics and acknowledged he may have been wrong about closing it down, but he defended the decision he made as the best at the time.

“The question is and was, ‘Will history prove us right?’ We don’t have time to wait to find out the answer,“ Pittman testified. “…We don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know how many lives we are saving.”

The judge questioned Dr. Kalyanaraman about worst-case hospitalization projections that he believed were off by roughly 5,000 patients.

“I’m trying to figure out why you would think you need to have a greater shutdown. …That is so wildly off,” Judge Mulford declared from the bench. “…You are focusing on the worst case. I’m trying to get the real numbers.“

Judge Mulford noted numbers did not surge in the almost two weeks since his temporary restraining order against the county’s dining ban went into effect.

“I cannot reconcile these numbers. I need you to explain this to me: Why are you so wildly off with your projections?“

The judge noted the lack of financial help and dysfunction in Congress. “You will put a guaranteed class of people out of work,” he said. “…We couldn’t get a federal stimulus bill passed, and now they’re playing games with whether it’s $600 or $2000.”

Dr. Kalyanaraman stood firm in his belief indoor dining is a risky and potentially dangerous activity—noting diners must remove their masks and the airborne virus can spread quickly to multiple people even in a restaurant with strict capacity limits and other safeguards in place.

“This isn’t an indictment on restaurants. They are being punished by the dynamics of the virus,“ Dr. Kalyanaraman told the judge.

The county relied extensively on data from both Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Department of Health. County Executive Pittman said he thought the governor would increase restrictions as cases surged and felt he held out as long as he could before shutting down dining. He relented on an outdoor dining ban after hearing feedback from restaurant owners.

“Your decision is not easy, and neither is mine,“ Judge Mulford told Pittman.

Mulford said he expects to issue a final ruling sometime Wednesday, hopefully by noon. Until then, restaurants can continue to remain open for indoor and outdoor dining.

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.