Anne Arundel Co. executive replaces order that would have banned indoor dining

After a two-day hearing on an indoor dining ban, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Wednesday that he will allow restaurants to continue serving patrons inside at 25% capacity.

In a news release, Pittman said he wrote a new executive order that replaces his Dec. 10 order that was to have paused indoor dining until at least mid-January.

As a result, the plaintiffs have dismissed their case in the county’s circuit court. The case was brought by four restaurant owners — two each in Annapolis and Severna Park, Maryland.

Ahead of the hearing this week, a judge had entered an injunction earlier in December that allowed reduced capacity dining to continue indoors.

Pittman said he reassessed his earlier decision due to combination of the county’s recent progress in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases low, along with how disruptive a sudden closure would be for local restaurants.

In the release, the county said that virus cases had recently “leveled off” after a surge in early December, but health officials would continue to monitor coronavirus statistics. The release said the county is expecting a post-Christmas increase as more people look to get tested.

The statement closed with this message from Pittman: “I look forward to entering the new year with a little less conflict and a lot more hope.”

The 25% capacity applies to restaurants, social clubs, bowling alleys, mall food courts and other businesses that serve food. The latest executive order also caps fees for food delivery at 15% of the purchase price of an online order.

Similar challenges to recent orders in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore had been unsuccessful.

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