Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott lifted the ban on indoor and outdoor dining in Baltimore on Wednesday, announcing that eateries can reopen for dining at limited capacity beginning at 6 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22.
In a news conference at Park Height’s Zeta Center, Scott justified lifting the ban, citing the city’s decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Since the risk for COVID-19 transmission is greater indoors, the new rules on dining state that restaurants and bars will be limited to 50% capacity outdoors and 25% capacity indoors. Bars and breweries that do not serve food will be able to reopen for the first time since November. Additionally, restaurants are required to maintain sign-in and sign-out sheets for guests to assist with contact tracing and diners will only be permitted to stay for one hour.
Scott has also issued guidelines on other recreational activities, including gyms, which can host classes with up to 10 people if they are socially distanced and require participants to wear masks. Indoor recreation sites, such as bowling alleys and indoor pools, can reopen at 25% capacity. Tobacco shops are also permitted to resume sales without on-premise consumption. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25% capacity and indoor gatherings to 10% capacity.
While excited to have the option to dine-in at different eateries, junior Ashleigh Hawthorne explained in an email to The News-Letter that she is apprehensive about actually attending a restaurant.
“I worry that this reopening might lead to a surge in cases, so I will probably continue to get takeout for a while,” she wrote. “Depending on the trends we see over the next few weeks, I might be more inclined to eat out in the future.”
Freshman Daivik Chawla expressed similar concerns in an email to The News-Letter, stating that he is excited that Baltimore will feel more active and lively, but it is important to be cautiously optimistic about this decision.
Chawla wrote that he would be comfortable using dine-in options if he is certain that the restaurant is enforcing COVID-19 guidelines.
“This would only be after someone has specifically recommended a restaurant,” he wrote. “I'd continue with takeout for at least a few more days after the ban has been lifted.”
Hawthorne noted that, even though the outdoor and indoor seating arrangements will be distanced and sanitary measures will be implemented to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, there are still risks associated with eating out.
“I feel like a lot of the safety measures put in place are there to protect the customers, which is awesome, but I worry that dining in might increase the risk among restaurant employees,” she wrote.
Chawla noted the importance of social distancing as a measure that should be enforced at all times.
“Since eating involves removing my mask, I would like to ensure I'm at a comfortable distance from other people dining in,” he wrote. “I'd also really like to see tables being sanitized after every meal, [restaurants] using e-menus and the staff of the restaurant wearing gloves and masks at all times for the safety of all their customers.”