ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The City of Annapolis’ expanded outdoor dining program that began during the pandemic came to an on Monday. But some restaurants were given special leases to keep their dining spaces, upsetting some eatery owners.

“We were not afforded that option. It’s something we would have liked,” said Lisa Bolter, Owner & Operator of Dry 85 on Main Street.

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The program allowed restaurants to use parking spots as outdoor dining spaces to allow customers to eat outside while COVID-19 restrictions were in place.

All restaurants had to clear away their tables and chairs set up in the street except for some restaurants in Market Space that got special leases to continue using their outdoor dining space.

Bolter told WJZ that the extra outdoor space was helping the restaurant continue to recover from the pandemic and said some customers still prefer it.

“Even now to this day there are a lot of people who are still not comfortable coming inside,” she said.

Elsewhere in Anne Arundel County, the county council voted to extend outdoor dining for restaurants until January 2023.

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Mitchelle Stephenson, a spokesperson for Mayor Gavin Buckley said in an e-mail to WJZ:

“The state of emergency is over and that was how we were able to get around the City Code Zoning requirements to extend into the street/parking spaces,” she wrote. “Retail businesses expect to be able to have parking during the holiday shopping season. When the restaurants commandeer the parking spaces for outdoor dining (which is where the sidewalk extensions were located in the City, a more urban environment than what they have in the county), those parking spaces are not available for retail customers. Plus not as many people dine out of doors when the weather is cold.”

Stephenson added that sidewalk dining permits are still allowed and said other businesses that would like to enter a lease for parking spaces from the city may negotiate with it.

Some residents like Denisa Protani said the program was great for restaurants during the pandemic but are now happy to see the streets back open.

“I’m glad we have the parking spaces back just as an Annapolitian who comes downtown,” she said. “[They] got rid of all the ugly plastic borders and the town is going to look beautiful for the holidays.”

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Stetson Miller