Carry out booze saved the day for many Md. restaurants during the pandemic’s early days

Thousands of restaurants closed during the pandemic, but even more would have likely shut their doors in Maryland without a change in policy that allowed customers to take beer and cocktails home with their takeout.

Industry experts told a Maryland comptroller’s work group on pandemic spending Tuesday that the policy change likely spared hundreds if not thousands from the state government-imposed lockdowns that barred any indoor dining.

Within days of the lockdowns, executive orders from Gov. Larry Hogan and decisions to suspend enforcement from Comptroller Peter Franchot allowed carryout and direct delivery of alcoholic beverages to customers.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland says 15% of restaurants and food service business went under during the pandemic — between 1,700 and 2,000. But the group’s estimated worst case scenario was 40% of restaurants shuttering.

“It’s still impactful, but not as damaging as we once thought,” Marshall Weston, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, told the group.

The brewery industry also saw the benefits of the policy.

“Without these changes, the industry would have not survived the early days,” said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland, in a statement. “Unequivocally, they would not have survived.”

“We’re the backbone of every neighborhood and community,” Weston said. “Our society and our economy lose when restaurants are not able to be successful.”

Last year the Maryland General Assembly passed a law signed by the governor that extended the to-go cocktail policy through June 2023.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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