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Maryland Restaurant Association says 75% capacity and 6-foot social distance are incompatible

September 23rd, 2020 by WCBC Radio

According to the Maryland Restaurant Association, the expanded indoor dining rules are effectively wiped out by the existing 6-foot social distance requirement, and restaurant owners want guidance from the state health department. 

Governor Larry Hogan recently signed an order allowing for 75% indoor capacity, but the association says without changes, the increase has no positive impact on most restaurants.

Marshall Weston, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said in a statement, "The Maryland Department of Health issued a Directive and Order yesterday that essentially negates Governor Hogan’s Executive Order increasing indoor dining capacity to 75 percent. The restrictions outlined in the MDH order make it impossible for restaurants and foodservice operations to achieve 75 percent capacity, even though there are ways to do so safely."

"Allowing restaurants to utilize physical barriers between tables and increasing table seating limits can significantly help restaurants increase capacity while also keeping customers and employees safe. Retail stores have been using plexiglass barriers for months and even the Maryland State Department of Education’s recovery plan for returning students to the classroom includes the use of barriers. CDC guidelines also confirm that physical barriers are acceptable in foodservice operations – yet no explanation has been provided as to why barriers are not acceptable for the restaurants in Maryland."

"The Maryland Department of Health needs to update their Directive and Order to comply with the intent of Governor Hogan’s Executive Order, not undermine it. Restaurants should be permitted to use physical barriers and also increase the number of patrons permitted at each table."

"Without these changes, increasing capacity to 75 percent has no positive impact on most restaurants and does not make up for the loss of outdoor dining."