Citing improved coronavirus metrics across Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that restaurants and bars will be permitted to stay open past 10 p.m. starting on Monday.
“With our data showing continued improvement, the holiday surge behind us and the increasing speed of vaccinations, we are now able to take this step,” Hogan (R) said in a prepared statement. “Marylanders must continue to remain cautious and vigilant in order to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe and healthy.”
The decision to take the step in Frederick County ultimately rests with County Executive Jan Gardner (D), however. Through a spokesperson, Gardner said she was still reviewing Hogan’s emergency order shortly after it was announced Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, for local bars and restaurants, the potential return to later hours is welcome news.
Wade Newman, owner of Shuckin’ Shack on North Market Street, said that while dinner service has remained fairly steady, having hours past 10 p.m. will make a huge difference in the bar side of the business.
Pre-pandemic, about 30 percent of Shuckin’ Shack’s revenue was made between 10 p.m. and closing on the weekends. Those are prime hours for sports games, Newman said, and not being able to remain open for them has been a big hindrance.
“We’ve kind of missed out on a lot of the sports aspect and then just the hanging out and all that,” he said. “We will definitely do much better being open past 10 o clock.”
Mike Raffo, co-owner of Distilled on Shorebird Street, said the restaurant and cocktail bar plans to return to its normal hours, remaining open until 2 a.m. daily.
“As soon as we had to start closing at 10 p.m., we saw a decrease in our business by about 50 percent,” Raffo said.
Hogan made the announcement as the Maryland Department of Health reported 2,190 new cases of COVID-19. That’s a drop of more than 40 percent from early December when new cases were at their all-time high.
Hospitalizations have dropped by 11 percent over the past two weeks, and the state’s seven-day rolling positivity rate (6.15 percent) is as low as it’s been since Nov. 13.
Hogan has allocated an additional $30 million to Maryland’s relief program for food service establishments to the $50 million that was announced in October.
In order to take advantage of the grants, restaurants must apply through the county.
The money can then be used for rent, payroll, job training, equipment purchases and to expand outdoor dining with tents, heaters and carts, among other things.
At her press briefing Thursday morning — before Hogan’s announcement — Gardner said a cumulative of $1.2 million had been deposited this week in the bank accounts of 246 Frederick County food-service providers through a grant program.
That is on top of the $2.5 million in grant money that was handed out to more than 200 county food-service companies in early November.