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Federal Hill sees big crowds on Halloween night, but Fells Point is ‘pretty tame’

Residents around the Baltimore area modified their Halloween celebrations to comply with the needs of these pandemic times, fashioning chutes to safely deliver candy to trick-or-treaters and wearing surgical masks with their costumes.

But far more frightening to some than any Halloween ghoul was the sight of those revelers who seemed oblivious to the pandemic altogether.

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In Federal Hill, people packed into lines that stretched down Charles Street, awaiting entry into bars and nightclubs like The Charles and Banditos. On nearby East Cross Street, throngs of people gathered outside places like One Star Country Club and Crossbar der Biergarten. Many of the young crowd wore costumes, but not everyone wore masks, either inside or out.

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)

It comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and reports of area hospitals nearing capacity. Health experts say they’re worried that fatigue over pandemic restrictions will make people less vigilant about following public health recommendations as the weather cools, leading to an even greater surge in cases.

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Things were more tame in Fells Point, an area typically bustling with bar hoppers and revelers in non-pandemic times. City officials had cordoned off the neighborhood to cars, and a heavy police presence monitored the central square. In anticipation of the holiday, the Baltimore Police Department canceled leave, providing more than 300 extra officers to address crowds.

Several bars had chosen to close early to avoid being site of a potential super-spreading event. Gail Furman, owner of Max’s Taphouse, shuttered her eatery at 8 p.m., saying “We want to do everything we can to keep our customers and employees safe.”

Adam Medina stacks chairs to move them inside Alexander's Tavern on Saturday night. Halloween night is usually busy in Fells Point, but the bar is closing early this year. Few people are out due to the coronavirus pandemic. October 31, 2020.
Adam Medina stacks chairs to move them inside Alexander's Tavern on Saturday night. Halloween night is usually busy in Fells Point, but the bar is closing early this year. Few people are out due to the coronavirus pandemic. October 31, 2020. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Around 8:30 p.m., Adam Medina stacked up chairs early at Alexander’s Tavern; managers had decided to close on account of the low turnout. He presented a handheld metal counter from his pocket that he had been given to monitor capacity inside. It never tallied more than 15 people. “It was pretty tame,” he said.

In the square, where Baltimore Police had parked a mobile command unit, Anne Chamberlain and her 16-year-old son, Parker Francoise, sat on a bench eating gelato and enjoying the crisp, calm evening.

“I’m actually really glad to see people doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Chamberlain, who lives in Parkville.

But there were still enough people out and about to make Teah Blanks uneasy. The 28-year-old Baltimore resident said that she was put off by the clusters of people waiting for tables at several eateries along Thames Street.

“I don’t know that you can really socially distance in this tight space,” she said. “They’re doing the best they can, but it’s kind of hard.” She was reconsidering her decision to come out at all.

Department of Public Works trucks block off streets leading to the foot of Broadway in Fells Point on Halloween night. October 31, 2020.
Department of Public Works trucks block off streets leading to the foot of Broadway in Fells Point on Halloween night. October 31, 2020. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Public health experts encourage people to pay attention to the entrance of restaurants, which are potential danger zones for transmission of the virus if people aren’t spaced out properly.

The tents that have become ubiquitous outside Thames Street restaurants could pose another potential concern from a public health perspective. Many are closed on three or more sides, which experts say provides far less ventilation than outdoor tables do. Tents that are sealed off entirely may be even less safe than sitting indoors, since tents lack the air filtration systems.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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