County Executive Jan Gardner announced Friday night she would not yet implement the governor’s executive order from a day earlier that would have allowed restaurants and bars to stay open past 10 p.m. beginning Monday.
Gardner (D) said the positivity rate and case rate per 100,000 people in the county were above the state average and the “coronavirus continues to spread at a high rate in Frederick County.”
“Because our hospitalizations are still extremely high and because our new case rate reflected in positivity rates and in cases per 100,000 population are above the statewide average, I want to maintain the limitation for two additional weeks and will reevaluate the situation at that time,” Gardner said in a prepared statement.
That means the restrictions could remain in effect until at least Feb. 15. But Gardner said via phone Friday she could revisit the decision a week before then if critical health metrics like hospitalizations and case rate per 100,000 people trend enough in the right direction.
Gardner signed an executive order Friday keeping the restriction on bars and restaurants in place. She said the current level of hospitalizations countywide — along with input from other county officials — is what caused her to keep the 10 p.m. closing restriction on bars and restaurants.
The health metrics have gone from “horrible to bad,” and there is still widespread virus in the community, worse than what the state averages are, she said.
Gardner said Frederick County has distributed millions of dollars in grants for restaurants through state and county funds. More money is coming from the coronavirus relief bill that Congress passed in December, she added.
“I recognize that all of these decisions cause a certain amount of economic hardship for people,” Gardner said when asked about current hardships restaurants and bars face. “I’m really trying to balance public health and welfare, and I think that is my priority.”
Dan Caiola, owner of The Derby Restaurant and Bar in New Market, said it was a “shame” Gardner would not follow the governor’s lead on closing times for restaurants and bars.
Caiola added he and staff want to follow proper public health guidelines but that business has been down since the beginning of the pandemic last year. And two busy upcoming days, Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl, are coming up next month.
“What are we supposed to do, tell people that with five minutes left in the game they have to leave?” Caiola said of Super Bowl Sunday.
At the Cellar Door on East Church Street in Frederick, bartender Erin Kirunova was already putting together late-night shifts and had reached out to DJs and security staff about returning to later hours before Gardner shut down those plans for the time being.
She found out the news just after 7 p.m. Friday from a customer who was sitting in the restaurant and happened to come across it on Facebook.
“I was quite annoyed and frustrated,” Kirunova said. “I mean, this is my only job. This is my means of living. Our establishment here, we’re more of a late-night place. So, that took a big hit. We were able to work with 50 percent [capacity]. We could do that, not a problem. The fact that we lost our biggest hours of business, that hurt us.”
Joe Mackey, the bar manager at Taco Daddy Cantina and Tequila Bar on North Market Street, was excited when Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the late-night restrictions Thursday because the restaurant does a lot of business later in the evening.
“But I do also understand, you know, wait a couple of weeks, see how it goes in the other areas, see if the numbers rise,” he said. “So, we definitely are understanding about it. But we are eager to get back to staying open later.”