BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The 2021 Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week was canceled amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Instead, organizers are asking residents to “Rally Around Restaurants.”

Visit Baltimore and the Downtown Partnership made the change after consulting with restaurant owners. Restaurants with carryout, delivery, pantry items or gift cards are encouraged to submit their information to Dining at a Distance Baltimore. There’s no fee to participate.

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Instead of the multi-course, prix-fixe menus at reduce prices, organizers are urging people to avoid third-party sites and directly order from the restaurants. They also ask customers to tip heavily.

“We recognize the place that many of our restaurants are in and asking them to discount at this time, it’s probably not in their best interest,” said Shelonda Stokes with the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

Rally Around Restaurants has also partnered with the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund to help feed unemployed or underemployed restaurant industry workers.

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Restaurants like Pizza di Joey at Cross Street Market in Federal Hill are taking advantage of the campaign’s reach to let people know they’re open for business.

“For many people, this is their sole source of income working here at Pizza Di Joey… and I can proudly say we have not laid one person off in that time either. We just keep going,” said Joey Vanoni.

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott closed dining at city restaurants after COVID-19 case numbers increased four weeks ago. On Friday, he announced restaurant dining would remain closed this week despite a 22% decrease in coronavirus cases.

Scott said it was due to an increased ICU capacity at area hospitals.

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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Sean Streicher