Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, many Maryland restaurants no longer had capacity limits for indoor dining after Gov. Larry Hogan announced earlier this week that the restrictions would be lifted in time for the weekend.
“It’s gonna be big for me because I can fit more people in here now,” said Jerry Gainey, owner of Jerry’s Place in Prince Frederick in Calvert County.
Gainey said he was able to fit three additional tables in his dining room, bringing him up to 34 seats inside.
“We’re really excited about the progression moving forward and, hopefully, out of COVID times,” said Jaime Ellis-Ade, general manager of Brewer’s Alley in downtown Frederick.
She said another welcome change that comes with this order is that in her restaurant, 10 people will be allowed to sit at a table. That’s up from only six people.
“A few more people in each dining room and being able to accommodate those bigger parties is going to be great,” Ellis-Ade said.
But restaurants cannot just open their doors — social distancing measures do remain in effect, which means tables must be 6 feet apart.
“Our building has not grown,” said Melanie Ferranti, the general manager at Killarney House in Davidsonville in Anne Arundel County.
Ferranti said while lifting capacity limits is the right direction, for her restaurant, that only means a couple of more chairs at tables. Her restaurant is still down 30 chairs from pre-pandemic times.
“It will not impact our sales and revenues dramatically at all,” Ferranti said.
Gainey and Ferranti said they have also noticed that Hogan’s announcement has led to confusion for some of their diners.
“They’re going to believe that we’re pretty much open 100%,” Ferranti said.
Gainey said he’s already getting calls from customers who don’t realize that not every table and chair is out.
“I try to explain to them (that) I’m not totally full capacity,” Gainey said.
Ferranti said this is a week where they are really feeling the negative impact of COVID-19 on their business. As an Irish restaurant, the time around St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 is normally Killarney House’s busiest time of the year.
“Normally, this is the week that we would be killing it, and we are down, at least, probably close to half of our sales,” Ferranti said.
Until the day when Brewer’s Alley can be at full capacity, Ellis-Ade is happy for the extra chairs that come just before spring arrives.
“As the weather gets nicer, people are definitely starting to come out of the woodwork and come to the restaurants,” Ellis-Ade said.
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