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Staff shortage, not COVID restrictions, now holding back some restaurants

Posted at 4:39 PM, May 13, 2021

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — "It’s enabling to have more control over our own future," said Mark Hemmis.

For nearly his entire time owning Phoenix Upper Main in Old Ellicott City, Hemmis hasn’t been able to be in control.

He bought the building last year, moving his business up Main Street because of the county's flood mitigation plan.

Gordon Ramsay visited, renovating the place. They were open two weeks and then COVID. So they adapted.

"That tent and this outdoor seating area has allowed us to keep people employed and stay in business," said Hemmis.

Now the outdoor dining is the priority. So even as Gov. Larry Hogan lifts restrictions on all restaurants, bars and indoor and outdoor venues Saturday, Hemmis doesn’t think they will be able to move to full capacity indoors because of a staffing shortage.

"The hospitality issue has suffered a horrible blow with this COVID crisis and staffing is a major issue right now," said Hemmis. "With 90 seats outside and three full floors inside, plus all the additional carryout we are doing with these new world dynamics, we don’t have enough staff to accommodate all."

The governor's public indoor mask mandate is still in affect until 70% of Maryland adults receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. We are less than 5 % away from that goal. The chief of GBMC’s Division of Infectious Disease Dr. Theodore Bailey said that still leaves almost two million people unvaccinated, and just because it’s not a mandate anymore, doesn’t mean it’s not an important safety measure.

"The state doesn’t mandate life vests on our children or on ourselves when we go to beach or doesn’t mandate that we watch our children closely but these are still things that are wise to do to keep our families as safe as possible and I think that mentality in all other areas in our life where we take seriously the things we can do to minimize risk, we should still apply to COVID. This should not be a free for all," said Bailey.

Along with Howard, Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are also lifting restrictions Saturday. Baltimore City is implementing changes Monday.