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Baltimore needs a more targeted response to COVID-19 dining restrictions | READER COMMENTARY

Allison Abel, a server at Cookhouse in Bolton Hill, waits on George Bareford, left, and Michael Britt on Wednesday night. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. ÒJackÓ Young on Wednesday ordered city restaurants to suspend indoor dining by the end of the week and announced expanded requirements for face coverings.
Allison Abel, a server at Cookhouse in Bolton Hill, waits on George Bareford, left, and Michael Britt on Wednesday night. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. ÒJackÓ Young on Wednesday ordered city restaurants to suspend indoor dining by the end of the week and announced expanded requirements for face coverings. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

I am appalled that Mayor Young does not consider the negative impact of his rollback on upscale restaurants that cannot possibly offer outdoor dining (”Baltimore to suspend indoor dining at bars and restaurants, expand mask requirements as COVID-19 cases rise,” July 22). Instead of concentrating on the type of venue that has large bar areas and attracts people who want to mingle, he has cast his net over restaurants that offer very safe areas for people to dine inside. Mayor Young knows the ZIP codes of the problem areas — why not concentrate on venues there? Or stores there? Why are upscale restaurants like Tio Pepe and The Prime Rib, the problem?

We dined at Tio Pepe the other evening, a restaurant that cannot possibly offer outdoor dining because of their location on Franklin Street. I felt extremely safe dining there, more so than when I visit a grocery store, or a pharmacy or any other store. Their bar area barely seats 10 people, and there was only one person there, and no bartender at all. We were greeted by one of the masked owners who seated us in the empty main room. Other people who entered were shown to other rooms, and seated by themselves. Tables that could be used had flowers on them — the closest one to us was at least 8 to 10 feet away. We dined without encountering anyone but the owner and our masked waiter who kept his distance. Background Spanish guitar music, and subdued lighting made it a quiet, romantic evening which is restorative in its own way.

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Both Tio Pepe and The Prime Rib have small bar areas that do not attract crowds, and they offer safe social distanced dining in an otherwise scary world. Mayor Young is destroying small businesses by his all-encompassing rulings that harm upscale restaurants or smaller restaurants that are offering a safe environment. More refinement in his rulings is needed here. Target the problem areas, not the safe ones.

Claire Albert, Columbia

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