BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A judge on Thursday denied the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s lawsuit to overturn Mayor Brandon Scott’s ban on in-person dining in Baltimore.
In-person dining at city restaurants has been banned for more than a month. On his first full day in office, Scott announced a number of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, including the dining ban.READ MORE: Baltimore Mayor, Maryland Governor Clash After Hogan Says City Getting More Vaccines Than ‘Entitled To’ In Response To WJZ Question
On December 18, the Restaurant Association of Maryland announced it was suing the city as well as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties over dining bans.
In a statement Thursday, the group said it was disappointed by the decision.
“Not only are we disappointed in the judge’s ruling, but also in what appears to be an impossible standard to meet in order for restaurants to reopen in Baltimore City,” Restaurant Association of Maryland President and CEO Marshall Weston said. “The models being used to make decisions are not based on actual events or data and are only mathematical exercises as to what might happen. In the meantime, people will continue to leave the city to dine in restaurants located in other counties and I suspect that many restaurant owners are now considering the same.”
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Scott said in a statement the ruling “was fundamentally about the health and safety of Baltimoreans.”
“While we’re all anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy, we must continue to take precautions until the data determines it is safe to reopen. The actions we take today help protect the ones we love and avoid another shutdown like this in the future,” Scott continued.
The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, testified Thursday, saying restaurants are high-risk areas for COVID-19 spread because patrons have to remove masks to eat.
The lawyer for the Restaurant Association made the point that smoking at bus stops hasn’t been banned, but in-person dining has been. She went on to say the businesses are mostly frustrated that no research has been provided linking in-person dining to increased spread or cases traced back to restaurants.
Dzirasa said she meets with the mayor weekly about these types of decision and she plans to address in-person dining with him on Friday.READ MORE: West Baltimore Native, Descendent Of Slaves On Last US-Bound Ship From Africa, Shares Family's Legacy
Some restaurants have their own contact tracers working with them, adding they’re following protocols to keep their customers and employees safe.
In some cases, the lights are off at some of those establishments.
“The ripple effect here is not just restaurants closing and people losing their jobs but people are losing their homes people having to pull their kids out of college that are now all of a sudden food insecure,” Ashish Alfred, the chef and owner of Duck Duck Goose in Fells Point, said.
The weeks-long shut down has been hard on his staff and business.
“50% to 25% indoor, outdoor, no dining, you know, our leases aren’t structured like that; we still have to pay 100% of our lease,” Alfred said.
Restaurant owners think the blame is cast on them for something nobody can control.
“And now the numbers are up again, yeah, because people gathered for Christmas — why are we demonizing restaurants for decisions people made on their own?” Alfred said.
Customers can hope a middle ground can be found.
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“In Baltimore, it’s warm enough I would feel very happy sitting outside at a table at a distance,” a customer said.
“I think at reduced capacity maybe,” another said.
“We really feel for the restauranteurs and our hearts are for them,” another said.MORE NEWS: 'Change Is Necessary': Police Reform Bills Pass Committee Hurdle In Maryland Senate