ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With record low daily and 7-day COVID positivity rates and just in time for the first ever "Maryland Restaurant week," Governor Larry Hogan is allowing restaurants to serve up to 75 percent indoor capacity, compared to the previous 50 percent.
The order is effective Monday at 5 p.m.
Restaurant owners said they are optimistic it’s a sign the state is moving in the right direction when it comes to the battle against COVID-19 but the expansion doesn’t make a difference logistically right now because they are still following social distancing guidelines.
"I think it’s an indication that the state is moving in a positive direction with controlling this virus which is the real benefit of this," said Phoenix Upper Main owner Mark Hemmis.
President & CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland Marshall Weston released a statement in regards to Hogan's announcement
"Restaurants in Maryland are pleased that the Governor has heard their concerns and has increased indoor dining capacity to 75%. The weather will soon eliminate outdoor dining as a viable option and the increase of indoor capacity will help make up for that loss. We encourage all counties to follow the Governor’s Executive Order and not delay implementation. Restaurants will continue to serve their customers safely even with these increased capacities."
Multiple County Executives, including from Baltimore, Harford and Howard have already said they will follow Hogan's guidance to increase restaurant capacity.
But some restaurants don’t foresee it changing anything logistically.
"We can’t put more tables in right now that are 6 feet apart from everybody else," said Hemmis.
"We’re still at capacity right now, because of the 6-feet social distancing, that’s really whats handicapped us as far as generating revenue," said La Palapa manager Stephen Gruss.
La Palapa and Phoenix Upper Main in Old Ellicott City are not even at 50 percent indoor capacity right now.
"When we spaced out our tables, we weren’t quite able to get to 50 percent but we are excited for the opportunity to be open and keep people employed," said Hemmis.
The expansion announcement kicked off the state’s first ever Maryland Restaurant Week. While local jurisdictions have observed individual restaurant weeks over the past decade, this is the very first statewide observance and it means expanded marketing opportunities for the restaurants that participate, paid for by the Maryland Office of Tourism. Hogan said he encourages people to support their favorite local businesses.
"The chains, they will be fine. They will survive this sort of thing, but the mom and pop places that have dug into their own personal savings and didn’t think it was gonna last this long, they're the people that need help," said Gruss.
Restaurant week runs through September 27.