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The Charles and Banditos in Federal Hill temporarily closed for coronavirus violations during Halloween weekend

The Baltimore City Health Department over the weekend closed The Charles and Banditos Bar & Kitchen, neighboring Federal Hill bars, citing a lack of social distancing at both establishments on Halloween.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, both restaurants had been cleared to reopen, said city health department spokesman Adam Abadir.

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The closures came amid a busy Halloween weekend in the South Baltimore neighborhood. Baltimore Sun photographs from Saturday night show a long line outside of The Charles and Banditos, with dozens of costumed partyers standing close together waiting to enter.

Halloween revelers in Federal Hill wait in long lines to enter neighborhood bars and clubs. Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and reports of hospitals nearing capacity, young people flocked to area businesses.
Halloween revelers in Federal Hill wait in long lines to enter neighborhood bars and clubs. Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and reports of hospitals nearing capacity, young people flocked to area businesses. (Christina Tkacik)

Inspectors stopped by both The Charles and Banditos around 11 p.m. Saturday, Abadir said. At that time, inspectors informed the establishments that they were not in compliance with coronavirus regulations, and that inspectors would be returning to ensure that they addressed the issues, Abadir said.

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Inspectors returned on Sunday afternoon, determined the restaurants were still not in compliance, and closed both. The Charles was cited for a “lack of social distancing at the bar,” and Banditos was cited because customers were standing and drinking at the bar, not wearing face masks and not social distancing, according to tweets from the city health department.

The health department also closed Noir Restaurant and Lounge in North Baltimore on Friday because it exceeded 50% capacity, did not enforce social distancing and allowed customers to walk around the restaurant without masks, according to a tweet from the department. Noir was also closed on Aug. 28 for a similar infraction, and reopened on Sept. 1.

The owner of the Charles declined to comment, and owners of Banditos and Noir could not be reached for comment.

Since the pandemic struck in March, the department has temporarily shuttered at least five other bars and restaurants in the city, all of which reopened shortly thereafter. The list includes Euphoria Nightclub near Canton and Fells Point Tavern.

To reopen, establishments must present a written plan to health officials that explains how they will modify procedures to comply with coronavirus-related restrictions, and then participate in a conference call with health officials to discuss their plan.

The city’s liquor board has fined a number of establishments, too, but few cases have been about social distancing violations in crowded bars.

Several of the cases that came before the board earlier in the pandemic involved restaurants that allowed small numbers of customers to consumer food or alcoholic beverages indoors before executive orders from Gov. Larry Hogan or Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young permitted it. In most cases, the liquor board has kept fines small — just a few hundred dollars — citing “confusion” among restaurants about rapidly evolving coronavirus rules.

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