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Baltimore City restaurants prepare for outside dining

Posted at 4:29 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 18:20:18-04

BALTIMORE — Across the city, restaurants with outdoor seating permits have been busy preparing for reopening at 5 p.m.

"It's a lot of nerves," said Carmen Demarco, general manager at Barcocina in Fells Point. "It's getting ready on the fly."

Many restaurants were taken by surprise when Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young announced Thursday restaurants could resume outdoor dining.

Still, following strict guidelines laid out by state and local officials, restaurants said they're ready as of Friday afternoon.

The ability to service patrons outside is an opportunity to make up on lost revenue.

"This has been a long time coming," said Demarco. "We were shut down for about 60 straight days before we started doing carry out for the past two weeks and now where re-opening for our seated guests. It’s huge. We didn’t have the cash flow that we needed through the to go orders so getting people to come sit down, enjoy our food, enjoy our service, enjoy the views we can offer is super important for us."

According to city officials, restaurants should ensure that patrons are seated 6 feet apart, at tables of no more than six people unless they are members of the same household.

In addition to proper spacing, staff should are to be checked for COVID-19 symptoms before their shifts. They're also to be trained on safety guidelines. They must also wear gloves and masks.

As for menus, they must be sanitized between use or paper/disposable. Tables and chairs are to be cleaned between each use.

One issue facing restaurants is the ability to recruit staff. Many have been furloughed or are on unemployment. Getting them to come back and work has been difficult according to one restaurant.

The question ahead of 5 p.m., was if patrons participate in outdoor dining.

"I think it's time," said Lauri Leight, "I'm super excited. I think it's safe. I don't have any qualms about it. I'm hoping to have date night with my husband tonight at five."

One woman who spoke off camera, liked the idea outdoor dining but said she'd pass and continue practicing social distancing.

Restaurants tell WMAR-2 News they are operating on a first come, first serve basis. Reservations are not being taken.

For now, only restaurants that already have permits for outdoor dining can serve al fresco. The city says other restaurants can apply for a temporary permit on Monday at 9 a.m.

There are plans to expedite the permitting process and waive or reduce fees.