BEL AIR, Md. — The images look like something pre-pandemic.
St. Patrick’s Day revelers outfitted in green sitting in a restaurant laughing, eating and enjoying each other’s company even though less than one out of five people in Maryland have been vaccinated.
Dominic Dunnigan made the drive from Red Lion, Pennsylvania to join family here.
“I’m glad the family did,” said Dunnigan. “Like St. Patty’s Day was my grandmother’s favorite holiday. We always came down here and celebrated it with her. Her name was Diane Stapleton. I still where her on my shirt every time we come out.”
“I don’t have no fear hanging out and enjoying the holiday with everybody,” added Rachel Lewis from Windsor, Pennsylvania. “You can’t live your life in a box.”
But for most of the last year, restaurants like Black Eyed Suzie’s on South Main Street in Bel Air felt the walls closing in around them---take out and curbside only, 25-percent capacity and now 100-percent with social distancing of course.
Owner Brian Acquavella is happy to see customers returning.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the excitement,” Acquavella told us. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think that’s been the biggest change. The governor opening things back up allowing us parties of 10. That’s really helpful for guest, as well as for us, but I just think that the hope, the energy of people and the spirits have been up.”
In fact, just over three months after Acquavella told us he was exploring all kinds of creative options just to keep his business afloat with much of his 8,000-square-foot building kept empty, he says it is profitable again and he’s now brought back all of his pre-pandemic staff plus some additional workers.
“We’re actually ramping up right now so we’ve been trying to hire a little more to plan on being busier so when things open up more fully, we’ll be ready to go,” said Acquavella. “We’ll be ready to take care of everyone who has been stir crazy at home for so long.”
Unlike in years past, Acquavella wants to remind people that guests must be seated, order food and maintain social distancing, and traditional barhopping on this holiday is not allowed.