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'It's impossible to navigate': Baltimore restaurant owners hope city leaders loosen restrictions

Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 07:21:09-05

BALTIMORE — Baltimore restaurant owners are awaiting word from city leaders to see if they'll comply with Governor Larry Hogan's executive order.

"It's nearly impossible to navigate," said Kooper's Tavern owner Patrick Russell. "The state says one thing and the city does another. That or we're left scrambling."

On the heels of St. Patrick's Day weekend Russell would like to hear from Mayor Brandon Scott.

"This is another busy time of the year for all of us," he said. "People can’t stand and bars, we know that. We realize that, St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we missed it last year we’re going to miss it this year at 50% occupancy or whatever it is."

Yesterday Governor Hogan announced that beginning Friday at 5 p.m. capacity limits will be lifted on outdoor and indoor dining. Restaurants and bars still have to arrange distanced seating. Capacity limits will also be lifted on retail businesses, religious facilities, fitness centers, personal services, and indoor recreational establishments. That includes casinos, bingo halls, bowling alley and skating rinks.

Other large outdoor and indoor venues will expand to 50% capacity, including conference, wedding, and concert venues, as well as theaters, racing facilities and sporting venues such as Camden Yards.

But so far Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott has remained quiet.

On Tuesday, Scott said in a statement:

"Baltimore will continue to lean on the direction of healthcare professionals and local data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and new cases to shape reopening efforts in Baltimore. My office will work with the Baltimore City Health Department and the Law Department to review the Governor’s executive order and determine the best path forward. I am proud of the work of Commissioner Dzirasa and the Health Department, and remain committed to ensuring recovery efforts are administered through an equitable lens that prioritizes the people and places hardest hit by COVID-19.”

Business owners in Fed Hill like Fatimah Ames- Shuron would also like to see rules relaxed. She owns Sweet Peaz Southern Kitchen.

"We know we have to stay safe," said Ames-Shuron. "We also need to thrive as a business, especially a new one."

Sweet Peaz has a backroom meant for catering, parties and entertainment. But Baltimore's strict COVID-19 rules are keeping business from expanding.

"It's just not worth booking," Ames-Shuron said. "Especially when you have capacity caps."

"You’re robbing us of being in a community that we have been," said Amy Bobbel. "Restaurants have been punished enough. This is not how COVID is spreading."

A spokesperson for Mayor Brandon Scott said a press conference is planned for later this week. Details surrounding the press conference have not yet been announced.