Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has proposed legislation that would facilitate outdoor dining by continuing to suspend parking lot requirements and other local regulations on restaurants, breweries and bars through the end of 2022.
Harford was the first Maryland county to begin suspending these regulations to assist businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last May the County Council approved a temporary moratorium that waived provisions of the zoning code that would’ve prohibited bars, breweries, nightclubs and restaurants from setting up outdoor seating spaces on sidewalks or in parking lots. The moratorium was originally due to expire Dec. 31.
When Harford County’s COVID-19 positivity rate was on the ascent earlier in the year, Glassman signed an executive order that extended allowances for outdoor dining in the county.
An emergency act was introduced Tuesday by the County Council at the county executive’s request which would extend the moratorium on the regulations through the end of 2022. Before the County Council can vote on the legislation, they will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Parking must still be provided for visitors to commercial establishments and must comply with all fire and safety regulations in addition to American Disability Act requirements.
“Outdoor dining is safer for public health and my proposal will allow this option to continue in the parking lots of area businesses,” Glassman said. “The extra seating will also expand opportunities for local companies that still need our help coming through the pandemic.”
County spokesperson Cindy Mumby said earlier this year the intent of extending the waiver is to allow restaurants to recoup some of the money they have lost during the pandemic — and through the flurry of revised orders and guidance issued at the state level.
The ordinance only covers establishments in the county’s jurisdiction, leaving municipalities of Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace to decide their own rules.
According to Jesse Bane, town administrator of Bel Air, the town is currently allowing restaurants to have outdoor seating and will continue to do so until Jan. 1 when guidelines will be reconsidered.
“Restaurants need all the help they can get,” he said.