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Local indoor dining bans to be challenged in court

Restaurant association seeks injunctions
Posted at 3:25 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 18:09:04-05

BALTIMORE — Happy holidays?

Not for restaurants in Baltimore shut down by a ban on indoor dining, and not for Michelle Robinson, an out-of-work server from Phillips Seafood at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

“I had to sit down with my eight and 10-year-old the other day just to explain to them that we have to make a decision---either you get a Christmas gift or putting food on the table,” said Robinson.

Robinson is one of an estimated 150,000 restaurant workers laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, and in light of the successful legal action to prohibit Anne Arundel County from shutting down indoor dining this week, the Restaurant Association of Maryland is following suit.

“Today, the Restaurant Association of Maryland has filed requests for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in Maryland circuit courts in Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County,” announced RAM President & CEO Marshall Weston, Jr.

Much like the similar action in Anne Arundel County, the association argues that local leaders who have ordered such bans don’t have any scientific evidence to support them.

Otherwise, they would have seen a spike when restaurants were operating at 75-percent capacity.

“It’s a three-step process, but if we can get that, the restaurants could be open for Christmas and New Year’s,” said Attorney Joe Zauner. “and then there are hearings to see whether we can extend further than what would probably be about 15 days.”

That’s the hope of Michelle Robinson who is expecting her third child any day now with diminishing expectations of being able to financially support her family.

“I can’t get food stamps,” Robinson told us. “I tried to talk to a worker. They hung up on me three times yesterday. I literally was stressed out to the point that I couldn’t get out of bed the other day, because I’m like, ‘What do I do? I need a job.’”

Those seeking injunctive relief say they’re willing to work with local jurisdictions like Baltimore City. They’re only seeking to keep restaurants open to the extent that the governor’s orders allow.