By Robert Sobus
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced that Baltimore County will allow restaurant capacity to increase from 50 to 75 percent as of 5 p.m. today.
In a press release issued on Monday, Olszewski encouraged residents to order carry-out and do outdoor dining even with the restaurant capacity increase.
“We know that COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors than outdoors,” Olszewski said. “We continue to urge residents to prioritize less risky activities in their support of restaurants, such as carry-out and outdoor dining.”
The county’s move is consistent with the state’s move to “stage three” of reopening Maryland’s economy.
Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday issued a proclamation that Friday, Sept. 18, through Sunday, Sept. 27, will be recognized as Maryland Restaurant Week.
“As we continue with the third and final stage of recovery, I want to commend our state’s restaurant industry,” Hogan said. “To celebrate the first-ever Maryland Restaurant Week, I encourage Marylanders to support their favorite local businesses, whether you do so through delivery, curbside pickup or by dining indoors or outside.”
Some restaurants are optimistic about the increase while some don’t see a big change coming.
Eric Oppel, the owner of Deli-ish in Dundalk, said he believes his business will continue the same amount of work.
“It will have a low impact for me,” Oppel said. “We seldomly fill the restaurant.”
Restaurants will have to follow appropriate social distancing and strict public health guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and the National Restaurant Association.
Face masks are still required. Under state law, individuals 5 and older are required to wear a face mask in any indoor business. Individuals are not required to wear a face mask while eating or drinking in a restaurant.
Social distancing guidelines are enforced even in outdoor restaurants. If an individual is not able to maintain a 6-foot distance from an individual not from their household, they are required to wear a mask.
Steven Levy, the general manager of Potomac Pizza in Middle River, said he is content with how the government managed COVID-19 restrictions.
“They’ve been very good about coming around and checking on people to make sure restaurants are abiding by guidelines established,” Levy said. “Following those guidelines have allowed for the increase in capacity to happen.”
Baltimore County continues to see progress in health metrics while the county has moderately and safely reopened the economy, Olszewski said.
According to Maryland.gov, Baltimore County’s positivity rate is 2.3 percent, an 81 percent reduction since May 29, 2020.
“As with every step we have taken, we will continue to monitor this situation,” Olszewski said. “We are still in this together and can only get through this together.”