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Keeping a good thing going for struggling restaurants

Howard County executive bids to keep outdoor dining options
Keeping a good thing going for struggling restaurants
Posted at 2:54 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 19:12:58-04

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Nestled off Main Street in historic Ellicott City, the Manor Hill Tavern struggled to survive with curbside service and take out last year when outdoor dining gave the business a shot in the arm.

“A year ago when we were opening this beer garden on county property, everybody said, ‘How can you do that?’ I said, ‘We could only do that because of forward-thinking leadership,’” said the tavern’s owner, Randy Marriner.

Manor Hill was one of 60 restaurants to seek out permits for additional outdoor seating, but they are set to expire next month, and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is seeking an extension.

“Today, I plan to introduce emergency legislation that will allow those restaurants that were granted temporary outdoor seating permits through COVID-19 to keep that seating until November 15th of this year,” said Ball.

Ultimately, Ball says he’d like to make the extra space permanent, but for now, as the spread of the delta variant raises new concerns over public safety, supporters of the measure say it would keep them in business.

“This will allow restaurants to serve patrons outside where many of them will feel safe,” said Tricia Hudson of the Restaurant Association of Maryland. “We hate to turn away our guests. This will allow us to make sure that they feel safe, that they’re socially distanced and they’re confident that we’re going to take care of them.”

While the extension may only help until the winter cold returns, restaurant owners say they’ll take it as their struggle to stay in business continues.

“Well, for the last 16 months, there’s not been a restaurant in Maryland that’s made money,” said Marriner. “Not one.”

It will be up to the county council to approve the extension for added outdoor dining.