BALTIMORE — Shutdowns, curfews, capacity limits and other COVID-19 related restrictions defined a rollercoaster year for restaurants across the state as they fought to survive the pandemic.
Friday marked one year since the day Governor Larry Hogan announced the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland.
It was a moment that changed our lives in unimaginable ways.
Nearly two weeks later and with cases growing, the state ordered all bars and restaurants to operate as carryout and delivery only.
“We’ve been in survival mode since then," said Jackie McCusker, the owner of Nacho Mama's and Mama's On The Half Shell.
The news was a gun punch for restaurants owners who had no idea the Governor's announcement would be the beginning of closures, curfews, capacity limits and other restrictions that would reshape their business and their entire industry.
“Honestly, it’s been a year of hell. No other way of putting it," said John Minadakis, the owner of Jimmy's Famous Seafood. “Personally, professionally, nothing that I thought we would encounter over our lifetime.”
The way restaurants operate has changed drastically: social distancing, mask wearing, constant disinfecting and other mitigation measures were implemented to fend off the--at the time--raging virus.
“We are managing COVID," said McCusker. "We are not managing restaurants. We are managing the unknown."
One year after the first confirmed cases, many restaurant owners are still holding on for dear life with many across the state forced to close their doors forever due to the heavy toll the virus has had on their business.
According to the Maryland Restaurant Association, nearly 40 percent of Maryland restaurants are expected to shut down because of the pandemic.
“It’s crushing," McCusker said.
The scars from COVID-19 will take time to heal as restaurants face a long road to recovery.
And while some are still fighting till this day to keep their doors open, we should all remember, it’s been that same fight that’s allowed us to get through this together.
"There were blessings that happened through COVID in people that were able to stick together and say let’s keep going until we can’t or let’s keep going it’s not going to take us down," McCusker said.