ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Beginning Monday, bars and restaurants in Maryland will be able to stay open past 10 p.m., a reversal of a move made to slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office said Thursday.
Hogan issued an emergency order that will allow the change beginning Monday. In making the move, he cited dropping COVID-19 positivity and case rates as well as fewer hospitalizations and new cases.READ MORE: 2nd Gentleman Doug Emhoff Talks To Annapolis Small Business Owners About How Federal Aid Helped Them Survive Pandemic
Baltimore City officials said they too will lift the curfew Monday.
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“With our data trends showing continued improvement, the holiday surges behind us, and the increasing speed of vaccinations, we are now able to take this step,” Hogan said in a statement. “Marylanders must continue to remain cautious and vigilant in order to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe and healthy.”
The order keeps the capacity cap for restaurants at 50%, requires diners to be seated and prohibits buffet dining.
“It’s been along time coming, I wish they started sooner,” Baltimore County resident Jim Bullington said.
Restaurant owners like Brian Recher in Baltimore County said they hope having an extra three to four hours to remain open to serve customers will give them a much-needed boost.
“It’s great all the way around, I mean not just for the shop owners but for the employees as well,” Recher, the owner of the Rec Room in Towson, said. “There’s people that have kids and house payments and bills… it will be a big relief for everybody.”
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#UPDATE: @GovLarryHogan announced as of Monday, February 1st, bars & restaurants will no longer be required to close at 10 p.m. Ultimately, though, it will be up to individual jurisdictions to decide whether or not to adopt the new rule. @wjz
— Rachel Menitoff (@RachelMenitoff) January 28, 2021
While it will be up to individual jurisdictions to decide whether to move ahead with the change, Baltimore City as well as Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties have said they will do so.
“I’ve consistently said that a patchwork approach to reopening only confuses residents, puts businesses who are just miles apart on unequal playing fields, and limits the public health impact of any individual jurisdiction’s decisions,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said in a statement. “By continuing to align with the state, Baltimore County is providing clarity for our residents—though these steps do not mean we can let our guard down.”
In a statement, the Restaurant Association of Maryland praised the move:
“Lifting the statewide dining curfew will allow restaurants to accommodate customers later into the dinner hour and provide an opportunity to generate much needed revenue to keep their businesses afloat. Employees will also benefit from the increased work hours and the likelihood that more in person dining will result. We appreciate that Governor Hogan is actively managing this crisis and recognizing that after several weeks of improving COVID metrics that it made sense to lift this restriction.”
Last week, in-person dining was allowed to resume in Baltimore after being shut down in December.
Restaurant employees in Federal Hill say the additional hours would help business tremendously.
“Those extra four hours are like prime time,” Ryan Bailey, General Manager of Crossbar, said. “We need the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. hours to survive, really. Especially in these months, it’s tough.”
Hogan also announced that he’s pouring an additional $30 million into the state’s relief program for bars and restaurants. That’s in addition to the $50 million he announced back in October.
In mid-November, Hogan put the 10 p.m. closing in place due to climbing case numbers.MORE NEWS: Gov. Hogan Signs Bill To Allow Cocktails-To-Go, Alcohol Delivery Through June 2023