BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For the first time in 41 years, Mount Washington Tavern in north Baltimore closed its doors Monday without its owners or staff knowing when they would reopen.

Last week, the owners posted a message online saying with a heavy heart, they were closing the restaurant until dining restrictions designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.

“It feels surreal, it feels sad and heartbreaking,” manager and bartender Stephenie Moschera said. “Something we never thought we would have to do.”

The decision to temporarily close was a tough one, she added.

“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the carryout business wasn’t enough to sustain us… just opening the doors and turning on the lights is a hit right there,” she said.

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Another Baltimore restaurant, Mama’s on the Half Shell, also temporarily closed, citing the city’s restriction on indoor dining.

In the meantime, the staff at its sister restaurant, Nacho Mama’s in Towson, will be serving some of Mama’s on the Half Shell’s signature dishes.

Indoor dining is still allowed in Baltimore County.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said he did not make the decision to close down indoor and outdoor dining “lightly but I made it with the best interest of public health in mind. Keeping people healthy and alive is my number one duty.”

In the past 4 weeks, Baltimore City has seen a 19% reduction in total cases but a 10% increase in deaths. The city’s positivity rate is 5.3%.

We’re still seeing far too many cases in Baltimore,” Scott said on the Urban Health Beat podcast. “…While we’re seeing the spread slow in some ways, we are nowhere near out of the woods.”

As of Monday, the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 5.3% While the number of cases in the city has fallen by 19% over the past four weeks, according to the city’s health department, the number of deaths climbed by 10% over that same period.

In total, the city has seen 32,495 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Last month, the Restaurant Association of Maryland sued the city as well as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties seeking to overturn indoor dining bans in those jurisdictions.

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.

Kelsey Kushner