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Annapolis tests recovery zones on Wednesday, mayor signs order closing some streets for business

Eric Arcadia, of Fort Washington, and Alli Graf, of Annapolis, walk down West Street during the 2019 Inner West Street Association's annual Dining Under the Stars. The city has announced West Street and other city streets will be used as recovery zones, areas where businesses may serve food and drinks and sell their wares in outdoor spaces starting Monday
Eric Arcadia, of Fort Washington, and Alli Graf, of Annapolis, walk down West Street during the 2019 Inner West Street Association's annual Dining Under the Stars. The city has announced West Street and other city streets will be used as recovery zones, areas where businesses may serve food and drinks and sell their wares in outdoor spaces starting Monday (Matthew Cole / Capital Gazette)

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley has signed an executive order establishing eight areas across the city starting Monday where businesses can serve food and drinks or sell their wares in outdoor spaces such as sidewalks, parking spaces and parking lots.

The order follows Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement last week that restaurants could begin offering outdoor dining as of 5 p.m. Friday. It lists zones that will be established across the city including Main Street, Market Square, Dock Street, Maryland Avenue, Fourth Street, Inner West Street, Annapolis Street and South Forest Drive.

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The city will hold a pilot run for a handful of those zones on Wednesday starting at 4 p.m.

Those sites are West Street between Cathedral Street and Church Circle; Main Street from Francis Street to Church Circle; Maryland Avenue between State Circle and Prince George Street; and Market Space. Streets will be closed to cars and trucks for the event and will reopen at 11 p.m. Live music will end at 9:30 p.m.

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There will be additional parking limitations on lower Main Street and next to Bay Ridge Market Place shopping center off south Forest Drive, city spokeswoman Mitchelle Stephenson said.

Bus services will be rerouted during the event, City Manager David Jarrell said.

Buckley said the order is an attempt to direct patrons to areas where they can both purchase and consume alcohol after several weekends that saw some visitors flout open container laws in the city. Annapolis police have handed out verbal warnings about public consumption but there were no citations or arrests.

Though Hogan’s order allowing takeout alcohol has helped businesses, there was no guidance for where the drinks could be legally consumed, the mayor said.

“We’re quite happy to start to put the onus back on to the business owners because now there’ll be somewhere for people to consume food and beverage actually on the property of the place that you purchase from, which is our goal. So, the accountability for the businesses is really the place we want to get back to.”

Each zone will be managed by the corresponding business association, which will decide when and how often the zones will be open, Buckley said. Establishments located outside the recovery zones may still submit an application to the city to use their outdoor space. The order also gives Buckley the ability to change the size of the zones.

To streamline the application process, the Planning and Zoning Department has asked each business association to submit a single special events permit covering all applicable businesses contained within their zone. The application includes a detailed account of each establishment’s needs, including a map for seating that accounts for social distancing guidelines, bathroom accommodations, insurance and liquor information, and public health best practices, among other items.

If businesses want to use a tent larger than 120 square feet, they must file an additional application.

Mike Tomasini, Eastport Business Association president, managed the applications for businesses on Fourth Street and surrounding areas in Eastport. He stressed the need for the city to approve the applications as quickly as possible to help businesses take advantage of the summer weather.

“My worry is if we hold these things up, not only are these flexibilities temporary but the summer is also temporary,” Tomasini said during a City Council work session Monday. “This is the only chance we’re going to get to move outside and use the seasonable weather to help bring back employees and get them back to work.”

In the zones, outdoor seating cannot exceed what a restaurant is allowed to have internally, said Felicia Nolan, development and events specialist in the mayor’s office. There are other requirements like seating cannot block handicapped parking spaces and the lot must still be accessible to emergency vehicles. Fees for the application have been waived.

The executive order also establishes that all individuals will have their temperatures taken before entering a recovery zone and will be required to wear a mask. But Buckley said temperatures won’t be a requirement, adding that the city has backed off initial plans to purchase 700 forehead thermometers.

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The city will set up sanitization stations to promote handwashing and barriers to cordon off dining areas from the general public, but enforcement won’t be perfect and some resources won’t be ready in time for Wednesday’s pilot run, Buckley said.

“I don’t think we’ll have all the things in place for tomorrow we definitely believe we’ll be one of the first areas in the state to do this.”

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