ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) -- Howard County Executive Calvin Ball introduced emergency legislation to the county council on Wednesday that would extend the temporary outdoor dining program for restaurants that added or expanded the service during the pandemic.
"With council approval, our legislation will ensure that restaurants are able to utilize their outdoor seating and continue their recovery while our weather is still nice," said Executive Ball.
The temporary use permit for outdoor table service is set to expire on Aug. 15, the same time as the County's State of Emergency and Maryland's emergency order. The new legislation would allow restaurants to keep the seating option for another three months, until Nov. 15.
More than 60 restaurants applied for the permits. Howard County restaurant owners said that outdoor dining is crucial to their recovery from the pandemic.
"Anything that we can do to extend our season and staying open, providing more seats is critical," said Randy Marriner, Owner of the Victoria Restaurant Group.
Hudson Coastal Raw Bar and Grille owner Tricia Hudson would like to keep offering outdoor dining to customers who may not feel comfortable sitting inside.
"I think outdoor seating will bring in more patrons," said Hudson. "It'll bring in the comfort level that people need."
Hudson said the restaurant industry is still facing many difficulties like supply chain issues, price increases and issues with hiring staff, making the pandemic recovery difficult.
"During the last few months, I have visited dozens of restaurants where the owners say they are beginning to recover from the losses suffered during the pandemic," said Ball. "By allowing them to continue to offer outdoor seating, we hope they will be able to rebound even more quickly. I am optimistic the County Council will vote to approve the extension by month's end."
Ball also said that his administration is working to give some restaurants the option to make the outdoor seating permanent. An announcement about that option will be made in the coming weeks.
Howard County Board of License Commissioners voted unanimously to allow restaurants, bars, and taverns to continue to sell 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.
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