Montgomery Co. ends late-night booze sales at restaurants, citing COVID-19 spike

Officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are pulling the plug on late-night booze sales at bars and restaurants, citing a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

The county’s late-night alcohol sales program, which allowed restaurants and bars to serve alcohol until midnight if they received a waiver from the county, was canceled 5 p.m. Friday, the county announced in a news release.

The rules for late-night booze sales included a provision allowing the county to automatically suspend the program based on certain health metrics.

Among the metrics: if the county’s three-day test positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive — exceeded 3.25%, or the three-day average of new cases went above 100.


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According to county data, the three-day average of new cases is 167, and the three-day positivity rate is 3.9%.

Nearly 200 businesses that had been OK’d to serve late-night alcohol were notified by county officials on Thursday that they were suspending the program, the news release said.

The halting of late-night alcohol sales is separate from other restrictions the county is seeking to place on restaurants and retailers. Earlier this week, County Executive Marc Elrich proposed reducing capacity at restaurants and other venues at 25% — instead of 50%.

The county council, however, must approve those restrictions and postponed a vote on the matter until Tuesday.

The late-night alcohol sales program, which only rolled out last month, allowed restaurants to serve booze until midnight as long as they enforced social distancing requirements and took other safety measures.

Under Phase Two of the county’s coronavirus recovery plan, alcohol sales were extended to midnight, but the county initially clamped down on the hours in August, pointing to data from contact tracing teams that found indoor diners were more likely to flout social distancing measures later at night.

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