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For restaurants, it’s ‘Whack-A-Mole’: Nacho Mama’s in Towson closes again after employee tests positive for coronavirus

Just days after reopening, Nacho Mama’s in Towson has closed a second time after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

“We just got back in the saddle on Wednesday. The last thing we thought is it could happen during the weekend,” owner Jackie McCusker said.

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The same location had previously closed July 3 after an employee tested positive for the virus. The restaurant specializing in “Maryland-Mex” fare will remain closed until the business has been sanitized and all employees are tested.

Though not mandated by law, McCusker said she felt like the decision to close the Towson location again was the right thing to do for staff and customers.

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The eatery’s Canton location closed earlier this month, along with sister restaurants Mama’s on the Half Shell and Pizza and Wing Factory, following a surge in cases in that neighborhood. They have since reopened.

The pattern of opening and then closing again and again is something of a nightmare scenario for small business owners, who face steep losses in inventory and revenue with each new shuttering. And restaurants are already reeling from state mandated shutdowns that began in March.

Other restaurants in the Baltimore area facing temporary closures include Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen at the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Bluebird Cocktail Room & Pub in Hampden.

“We’re strong people,” McCusker said of people in the restaurant industry. “We get through 9/11′s. We get through 2008 debacles. We get through a lot of stuff.” Eight years ago, she and her family continued to run the business after the death of her husband, Patrick “Scunny” McCusker, who founded the business in Canton in 1994.

But the coronavirus has been uniquely challenging. “It asks a lot of all of us,” she said. “I keep calling it the game of Whack-A-Mole.”

A June 10 report from economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon found that up to 85% of independent restaurants and bars could close by the end of the year because of the coronavirus. Others have predicted around half of restaurants will permanently shutter because of the pandemic.

Prior to closing, the Towson branch of Nacho Mama’s had offered outdoor seating as part of Baltimore County’s Seats on the Streets program as well as limited indoor seating and carryout.

One thing missing from the menu? The Nacho Mama’s trademark hubcap margarita, which features an oversized helping of the tequila based drink with multiple straws. Even if it was shared between members of the same household, it just didn’t feel right, said McCusker.

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