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Federal Hill bars Banditos and The Charles shut down for coronavirus violations for 2nd time in a week

For the second time in less than a week, Baltimore’s Health Department closed Banditos and The Charles, popular Federal Hill bars, for not enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing regulations meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The establishments were both originally closed Nov. 1, when officials cited social distancing issues from Halloween night. The establishments reopened Nov. 2, but were closed again on Friday, according to a tweet from the health department.

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On Saturday, both restaurants reopened again, said Adam Abadir, spokesman for the city health department. To reopen, the bars needed to submit a plan detailing how they would rectify the issues inspectors flagged on Friday evening, and they needed to be reinspected, Abadir said. How quickly restaurants reopen after they are shut down depends on how quickly they’re able to complete those steps.

“At the end of the day, our job at the health department is not punitive,” Abadir said. “We are just concerned about the safety of all of the Baltimore City residents.”

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The city’s crackdown on the two bars comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across the city and state, and shortly after Gov. Larry Hogan urged localities to step up their enforcement of pandemic-related rules.

It also comes shortly after the city announced increased COVID-19 regulations by lowering capacity restrictions to 25%, shutting down bars that do not serve food and prohibiting indoor dining after 10 p.m. Those new rules go into effect Thursday.

According to the health department’s tweets, customers at Banditos Bar & Kitchen were not wearing masks and social distancing on Friday, and the same was true at The Charles, where patrons were also standing and drinking at the bar. Under current COVID-19 regulations, restaurants are only to serve seated patrons.

Because these were the bars' second offenses, inspectors closed them on Friday, instead of returning for a second inspection before shutting them down, as was done on Halloween weekend.

The owner of The Charles declined to comment, and Banditos management could not immediately be reached for comment.

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