Two bills were introduced by the Harford County Council at its Tuesday legislative session — one that would permit outdoor dining to continue at bars and restaurants, and a second that would alter the way revenue from the county’s hotel occupancy tax is used.
One bill would extend the temporary moratorium on outdoor dining. The moratorium waives provisions of the county zoning code that prohibit bars, breweries, nightclubs and restaurants from setting up outdoor seating spaces on sidewalks or in parking lots.
The moratorium was enacted to allow businesses to continue outdoor dining as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium is scheduled to end Dec. 31. If this bill passes, the moratorium would extend through Dec. 31, 2024.
The other bill would change how hotel occupancy tax revenue raised in Harford County’s municipalities is spent.
According to the bill’s fiscal note, the county code currently requires that 50% of the hotel occupancy tax revenue raised in county municipalities — Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace – must be distributed to the municipality where the money was collected. The remaining revenue can be used to fund tourism activities anywhere within the county.
The new bill would require that 50% of the hotel occupancy tax revenue collected in the county’s unincorporated areas must be used within the councilmanic district in which the hotel is located.
According to the fiscal note, the county raised $2.7 million from hotel occupancy tax revenue in fiscal 2023. The county has 40 hotels, including 17 in Aberdeen and four in Havre de Grace; there are no hotels in the Town of Bel Air, the fiscal note said. The remaining hotels in the county are mainly in Districts A and F, represented by County Council Democrats Dion Guthrie and Jacob Bennett.
Both bills will have public hearings on Oct. 17 at 6:45 p.m. in council chambers.
In other council news, the council unanimously voted to appoint Bennett as the council’s Board of Education liaison. In his day job, Bennett works as a Harford County Public Schools teacher.
The council also approved a resolution that designates the 18-acre Friendship Farm property in Street as a Harford County Historic Landmark.