Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Wednesday announced the introduction of emergency legislation to extend outdoor dining at bars and restaurants that expanded service during the coronavirus pandemic until Nov. 15.
“I visited dozens of our restaurants over these last few months, and they assure me they’re coming back,” Ball said during a news conference at the Manor Hill Tavern Beer Garden in Ellicott City. “By extending our outdoor seating program until mid-November, I hope that we can get them that finish even sooner and help them thrive.”
In June 2020, Ball announced a temporary-use permit for outdoor table service that allowed bars and restaurants to create or expand their outdoor seating while indoor dining capacity limits were in place, according to a county news release.
The temporary-use permit is tied to the county’s state of emergency, which is set to expire at the same time as the grace period on the state’s emergency order on Aug. 15.
“We got into this business for the love of hospitality, but it isn’t very hospitable to deny patrons outside seating where they would feel more comfortable and safer,” said Tricia Hudson, owner of Hudson Coastal Raw Bar and Grill and a member of the Restaurant Association of Maryland executive board, in a statement. “We hope that the [County] Council works expeditiously to support the extension of the emergency order that will allow restaurants to continue with outdoor seating.”
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If approved, it will take effect immediately, according to the legislation. The County Council introduced the bill at an emergency legislative session Wednesday evening.
The announcement comes one week after the Howard County Board of License Commissioners voted unanimously to allow bars, restaurants and taverns in the county to continue selling to-go alcoholic beverages.
The policy allows alcoholic beverages, including cocktails and mixed drinks, to be available for carryout or delivery from licensed establishments through at least June 30, 2023.
Regionally, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City and Harford County have also extended their outdoor dining allowances at local restaurants.
Ball also said during the news conference that his administration is working on a process to allow some restaurants to make outdoor seating permanent.
“Hope is on the horizon, and we continue on the road to recovery and we will get through this together,” Ball said.