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Restaurant Association of Maryland Sues to Halt Dining Restrictions in Baltimore City, DC Suburbs

December 18th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

WBAL reports that after successfully blocking an order to shut down indoor dining in Anne Arundel County, Maryland restaurateurs are suing to overturn local restrictions in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Marshall Weston, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, contended at a Friday news conference that the industry had been singled out unfairly. Tens of thousands of employees in the industry remain laid off or furloughed and nearly half of restaurant operators reported in a recent restaurant association survey that they would close permanently in the next six months without significant financial relief.

"That would mean over 400,000 restaurants closing permanently and adding even more employees to the list of those not working," Weston said.

He said that restaurants are generally built to handle indoor dining, outdoor dining and takeout. As winter weather makes outdoor dining infeasible, Weston said, local governments are going beyond Gov. Larry Hogan's orders to deprive restaurants of what is normally a busy December dining rush.

While indoor and outdoor dining are considered high-risk activities for contracting the coronavirus, state contact tracing data place them far behind working outside the home and participating in large social gatherings. In news conferences, Hogan has questioned the orders to restrict dining beyond his statewide directive limiting them to half of capacity.

"Restaurants have continued to operate safely and there is no evidence linking the spread of COVID to restaurants," Weston said. "If indeed restaurants were a source of COVID, we would have seen significant increases while restaurants were open at 75% capacity but that did not happen."