- The Washington Times - Friday, January 15, 2021

A judge in the city of Baltimore has upheld the city’s dining bans, dealing another blow to dozens of restaurants seeking to challenge the coronavirus-related restriction.

Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill acknowledged Thursday the “irreparable harm” the ban has caused, but said it is ultimately a “matter of life and death,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM) filed the lawsuit at the end of December seeking to overturn Mayor Brandon M. Scott’s prohibition on both indoor and outdoor dining. The complaint argued that eateries were not to blame for the rampant spread of the virus.

Marshall Weston, RAM‘s president and CEO, said in an email statement Friday that he is “disappointed” in the ruling, as well as “what appears to be an impossible standard to meet in order for restaurants to reopen in Baltimore City.”

“The models being used to make decisions are not based on actual events or data and are only mathematical exercises as to what might happen,” Mr. Weston said. “In the meantime, people will continue to leave the city to dine in restaurants located in other counties and I suspect that many restaurant owners are now considering the same.”

Mr. Scott praised the ruling in a statement Thursday and said it “was fundamentally about the health and safety of Baltimoreans.”

Mr. Scott praised the ruling in a statement Thursday and said it “was fundamentally about the health and safety of Baltimoreans.”

“While we’re all anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy, we must continue to take precautions until the data determines it is safe to reopen,” Mr. Scott said. “The actions we take today help protect the ones we love and avoid another shutdown like this in the future.”

The Democratic mayor said last week that he will provide an update on the restrictions Friday, and that restaurants will be given a week’s notice if and when he plans to allow on-premises dining again. 

The Baltimore City Health Department COVID-19 dashboard on Friday showed 34,902 total cases and 685 deaths. The city has a population of more than 590,000 residents.

RAM also filed two similar suits aimed at indoor dining bans in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, but judges found the rules were necessary.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has implemented a 50% indoor capacity limit at restaurants statewide, but state law allows for localities to enact their own restrictions.

The association did not immediately respond to an email request for comment sent Friday.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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