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Baltimore restaurant owner says city's slow reopening pace put businesses at a disadvantage

Posted at 8:52 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 07:25:37-04

BALTIMORE — The owner of a restaurant in Little Italy calls the mayor’s decision to expand indoor dining capacity a “step in the right direction”, but believes the city opting to wait will put them at a disadvantage during a busy holiday weekend.

While most states moved into stage 3 of reopening, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County opted to wait. Mayor Jack Young announced Friday that he’ll expand capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent for several businesses, including restaurants, on Tuesday.

Gia Blatterman, who owns Cafe Gia, praised the mayor’s decision.

“I think expanding to 50 percent will definitely help us try and get back on our feet,“ she said.

But, she was also critical of his decision to wait until after Labor Day.

“I thought this was the first holiday where we can probably look forward to more people. We are still held back at 25 percent. It’s a little unfortunate.”

Blatterman said the city moving slower on reopening than other areas put Baltimore restaurants at a disadvantage.

“It’s a no brainer,” she said. “I mean you have Baltimore county at 50 percent. We’re at 25. Where would you go tonight? Let’s go to Baltimore county.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, restaurants in the state of Maryland have lost $1.4 billion in sales and 150,000 employees have lost their jobs, according to the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM).

Marshall Weston, who is President and CEO of RAM, said because of virus-related restrictions, up to 40 percent of restaurants in the state could close by the end of the year.

Weston is pushing for a uniform approach when reopening restaurants in the state as well as increasing capacity to 75 percent. He added it could help struggling restaurants get back to normal.

“One of the things that can help them get out of this situation is increased customer traffic and people dining out more regularly. And increasing to 75 percent capacity statewide would be a good first step in getting there,” he said.

Blatterman said outdoor dining has helped her bottom line and called it a game changer for Little Italy and other communities.

She thanked Jack Young for his assistance making it happen. But, she said the virus is still eating at her profits and expanding capacity during the holiday weekend would have allowed her to capitalize on an increase in business.

“It doesn’t matter Tuesday that we can do 50 percent,” she said. “We will just have less people to feed.”

Baltimore City has been one of the hardest hit areas by the pandemic with more than 14,000 cases and 463 deaths.