La Paz on Carroll Creek had a line when they opened their patio at 5 p.m. Friday for outdoor dining, hostess Lindsey Baker said.
By 5:30, their eight tables were full. Owner Graham Baker said they decided not to utilize reservations because they’ve never required reservations for their patio before. He said the restaurant would be willing to change that depending on how the first weekend goes.
“It’s new to us, it’s new to the customers, so we’ll all be learning together on the fly,” he said.
Outdoor-only dining went into effect at 5 p.m. at both the state and county levels. Restaurants, wineries and breweries that already have established outdoor seating welcomed diners to their patios, while still following social distancing guidelines. Gov. Larry Hogan’s mandate requires outdoor dining to be confined to six people per table, with at least six feet between each table.
Other Frederick establishments, such as Idiom Brewing on Carroll Creek decided to use reservations to avoid long waits, or people traveling downtown only to not get a seat.
Laura and Brandon Smith enjoyed Idiom’s beer outside on its creekside patio. The beer was served in disposable plastic cups and each table had a bottle of McClintock Distilling’s hand sanitizer.
“This is the one thing we’ve been missing and looking forward to,” Laura Smith said. The couple had made a reservation right at noon, when the brewery opened up its phone lines.
While business owners were excited to welcome customers back to their establishments, many of them expressed hope that customers would be patient and acknowledge the experience won’t be like it used to be.
“It has to be different, it’s the nature of the beast,” Graham Baker said. “So my hope is that our customers are understanding that it’ll be a little different experience for everybody — us as well.”
In addition to social distancing requirements, establishments were required to either use disposable menus or wipe down menus in between customers. Servers must wear face coverings, and customers are required to wear masks when interacting with staff, or when going inside to use a restroom or place an order.
Dave Blackmon, owner of Smoketown Brewing, opened both his Brunswick and Creekside locations for outdoor seating Friday night. Instead of having customers come inside to order, he is implementing service staff to come outside and take customers’ orders.
Frederick County establishments that do not have outdoor seating are able to apply for a temporary outdoor seating permit through the Frederick County Division of Planning and Inspections. Parking lots, common areas and sidewalks can be used for outdoor seating per approval of the application. Frederick city also released a permitting process on Friday for city establishments wishing to gain temporary seating, spokesperson Ashley Waters said in an email.
Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, said the organization’s three goals are to increase outdoor seating for restaurants, continue curbside pickup for both restaurants and retail establishments, and allow more space for pedestrians.
“We’ve been advocating throughout that we want to achieve those three goals with whatever solution is finally implemented,” she said.
Despite the short notice, with the county announcing on Thursday it would allow outdoor seating starting Friday night, Blackmon was optimistic.
“I’m hoping that this weekend shows a good example of how this is being received and we keep expanding our ability to serve people,” he said.