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Baltimore’s Chez Hugo restaurant to close permanently, citing setbacks from coronavirus

Chez Hugo announced Wednesday that it will close permanently, adding to a growing list of Baltimore eateries to shutter their doors for good during the coronavirus pandemic.

The French-focused restaurant opened in 2018 in the former Merchants Club downtown and was located next door to Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.

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In a statement posted to Facebook, owners Steve Monnier and Scott Helm attributed the decision to the restricted capacity at restaurants and “an understandable reluctance on the part of diners to visit indoor restaurants.” The bistro had a “grand reopening” on June 24, according to its website.

“There is also enormous uncertainty around when these conditions might change. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close Chez Hugo,” the statement said. “We do not anticipate the restaurant reopening again in its current form.”

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The owners could not be immediately reached for comment.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced Wednesday that indoor dining in the city would be suspended beginning on Friday because of a rise in coronavirus cases.

In a 2018 review of the restaurant, a Baltimore Sun critic praised Hugo’s “pristine and pleasant main dining room, bordered by banquettes of a Dijon mustard hue.”

Monnier previously ran Aromes in Hampden, now home to Foraged.

The restaurant industry, and fine dining in particular, has been brutalized by the virus. Experts say anywhere from half to 85% of independent restaurants will close permanently.

Some have envisioned a wave of closures to begin soon as owners run out of grants and loans received through the federally funded Paycheck Protection Program.

“I think this might be the hardest time,” Helena del Pesco, chef and owner of Larder, a farm to table eatery in Old Goucher, told The Baltimore Sun this week. “Everyone’s [Paycheck Protection Program loan] has run out. Grants have run out.”

In the Baltimore area, other restaurants to announce they won’t reopen after the pandemic include the Alexander Brown restaurant, City Cafe, Maisy’s, Ryleigh’s Oyster, the Urban Oyster and the Milton Inn.

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