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Reopening Maryland: Restaurants, VFWs, Elks Lodge Can Offer Outdoor Dining Starting Friday

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 29, Maryland restaurants and social organizations -- like VFWs and Elks Lodges -- will be able to safely reopen for outdoor dining only as long as they follow strict requirements.

"Now, as of Friday at 5 o'clock, all jurisdictions statewide are able to move forward with fully completing stage one of reopening," Gov. Hogan said. He said 23 of 24 counties had moved into at least some part of stage 1 of the state's Roadmap to Recovery plan.

"Most people think we're going about it right, and I understand there's going to be criticism on both sides, and we're not going to make everybody happy," Gov. Hogan added.

Gov. Hogan said that restaurants must follow CDC and FDA guidelines when they reopen. Those guidelines include:

  • Customers being appropriately distanced
  • No more than six people seated at a table
  • Use of disposable paper menus OR sanitize reusable menus between each use
  • Sanitize outdoor tables and chairs between each customer seating
  • Staff must be trained in current COVID-19 health and workplace guidelines

Some jurisdictions across Maryland have already issued guidelines for bars and restaurants to help them reopen under the current restrictions.

According to Gov. Hogan, each jurisdiction can continue to decide how they wish to move forward with their reopening process.

Restaurants like Lib's Grill in Baltimore County will be able to open up its patio and outdoor area to customers if the county allows it.

"Big smile, yeah very big smile," Nick Liberatore, Owner of Lib's Grill, said.

Gov. Hogan suggests that some areas -- like Little Italy, for example -- close down streets to expand dining options in parking lots and other public outdoor spaces.

"We love the idea of closing streets for outside seating in Little Italy and Fells Point in Baltimore City," Gov. Hogan said.

Here is the state's guidance on Friday for restaurants.

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Gov. Hogan, however, stressed that Marylanders should continue to "remain vigilant" as more restrictions are lifted.

"Particularly as we begin to come into contact with more people," Gov. Hogan said. "A lower risk does not mean no risk, and safer does not mean completely safe. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, particularly if you are a person in a vulnerable category or if you are around someone who is. If you can stay home, you should continue to do so."

Gov. Hogan said if hospitalizations continue to trend downward, the state would be in a position to enter Phase Two of its recovery plan. He said that would include a lifting of the safer at home order and allowing other non-essential businesses to begin to reopen.

"Our Coronavirus Recovery Team will be continuing to watch all of the data very closely," the governor said. "If these encouraging trends continue into next week, we would then be in a position to begin entering Stage Two of our recovery."

Gov. Hogan stressed that people need to continue to follow CDC guidelines because the fight against the pandemic is "by no means over."

Since the governor lifted some restrictions, many counties have followed suit. But some have remained under a stay at home order -- like Baltimore City, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, as cases continued to grow there. Baltimore City officials announced Tuesday they were finally seeing some promising improvement.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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