BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore officials announced that both indoor and outdoor dining will be allowed with some COVID-19 restrictions in the city, starting this Friday, Jan. 22 at 6 a.m.

Indoor dining will be allowed at 25% capacity, while outdoor dining will be allowed at 50% at restaurants with a one hour max time limit. Restaurants must sign in patrons to help with contract tracing. Bars without food licenses can also open with these restrictions. If you have tents for outdoor dining, the flaps must be open.

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Restrictions have also been lifted at the following places with these restrictions:

Indoor Dining

Indoor dining will be allowed at 25% max occupancy.

Outdoor Dining

Outdoor dining will be allowed at 50% max occupancy. All outdoor dining spaces must be open on all sides with no enclosures permitted.

The mayor’s office clarified that an outdoor tent with no sides is permitted.

For dining in general: All guests will be limited to a 1-hour max time limit and restaurants must maintain a sign-in/sign-out sheet for both patrons and staff.

Bars

Bars without food licenses will also be allowed to reopen at 50% max outdoor capacity and 25% max indoor occupancy.

A 1-hour max time limit and sign-in/sign-out for patrons and staff are required. This also includes breweries.

Fitness

Gym classes are allowed to resume, socially distanced, with masks required, and limited to 10 people.

Indoor Recreation Establishments

All indoor recreation sites with the exception of adult entertainment and hookah & cigar lounges will be permitted to reopen at 25% max occupancy.

Hookah & cigar lounges are allowed to keep their retail sales open at 25% max occupancy, but must remain closed to onsite consumption.

Live Performances – Streaming of live performances will be permitted.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the coronavirus numbers have been leveling off which is what led him to lift restrictions.

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“I am proud of our residents for the work that they have put in to see this drop in numbers, but I urge everyone to stay cautious and proactive,” Scott said. “Let me be very clear. We are still in a pandemic that has taken away family, community, our neighbors and friends and we must continue to take that seriously.”

“I’m excited for our restaurants to resume their service and I look forward to keeping a line of communication open, as well as to continue to navigate this pandemic together,” Scott added.

The mayor met virtually with some restaurant managers and owners earlier this week and said he took into consideration their thoughts when deciding how to reopen.

” I appreciate the candor and the bluntness of the conversation,” Scott said. “I also appreciate the breadth of experience and information share and where adjustments can be made in the need to be made and city government’s response to COVID-19 and its impact on their industry and their workers. Our restaurants and their employees have suffered tremendously.”

City officials also spoke on the Outdoor Dining and Street Closure Program, which allows restaurants to receive reimbursement for City and State fees that come with outdoor table service. They said city businesses can be reimbursed up to $800 for minor privilege fees and health inspection costs.

Anyone looking for reimbursement must provide their contact information, vendor W-9, applicable fee invoices, and proof of payment. The online rebate submission form is now live on the Baltimore Civic Fund website.

“This is a life-changer,” said Anna Leventis, Sobo Cafe owner.

“We’re so excited we can’t wait to welcome people back,” said Shelly Layfield, Blue Moon Too server.

Restaurant owners in Baltimore City are thrilled Wednesday after Mayor Brandon Scott’s announcement that in-person dining is back.

“With the most recent leveling in cases, I have made the decision to adjust our city’s COVID-19 mandates,” Scott said.

Scott said the decision was made after key public indicators showed improvement in Baltimore including new case and hospitalizations down and the city now having the lowest positivity rate in the state.

And for those restaurant owners, it makes a world of difference. At Sobo Cafe on Cross Street, owner Anna Leventis said it’s been a very rough time.

“Once we hit January 1, our sales have just actually been the worst since the beginning of COVID,” Leventis said. 

Not only could the easing of dining restrictions bring a much-needed boost to businesses but also a boost to spirits of both diners and restaurant employees.

“It gives you like a little sense of kind of normalcy we’re you come back and you can come in and you can just enjoy even if it’s 45 minutes a half an hour… and we’re excited,” Layfield said. 

Murat Mercan, Owner of Pie in the Sky in Fells Point, said the restaurant will do its best to open on such short notice.

“I needed to order more inventory and hire more people, and it’s just like a short notice, you know,” Mercan said. “But we’re going to try our best.”

The new mandates are in effect for at least the next four weeks.

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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.

Stetson Miller