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Some fear restaurant dining may become a thing of the past during winter months

40% of Maryland restaurants are projected to close with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, one expert says.

BETHESDA, Md. — While most of us are welcoming in the cooler temperatures, the crisp air is bringing shivers to restaurants and bars across the metro region.  

Phase 3 of reopening is underway in Virginia and Maryland, while D.C. is still in phase 2 of its reopening plan. That means dining restrictions remain in effect. 

D.C. announced a $4M grant to help restaurants and bars.  Some heaters have already been spotted in parts of Maryland. Yet some believe winterization efforts won’t help restaurants survive.

“The idea of having heaters, although it sounds like a good idea, the availability just isn't there.” Marshall Weston said.

Weston is the President and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland. He says many restaurants will be left out in the cold if the restrictions aren’t adjusted.  “Before COVID, there were 11,000 restaurants in the state of Maryland. We are now projecting that close to 40% of those restaurants could close permanently. Just because they just can't financially get by with all of the restrictions and the lack of people dining out regularly.”

As of now, restaurants and bars still have limits on how many people are allowed in the restaurant at one time and how many can dine at one table. Limiting the service. “We can't afford to lose 4,000 and more businesses here in the state, and we can't afford to lose over 4,000 restaurants.” Weston added.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a $4M grant to help restaurants and bars winterize their outdoor areas. Across Maryland, restaurants are making plans as well, but heaters have become hard to come by. 

“We've been hearing that they are on such backorder that most restaurants won't be able to take advantage of them.” Weston said.

Now Weston is concerned about the ripple effect restaurant closures can have on the rest of the economy.  “We also have to remember all of the ancillary businesses that help support restaurants are impacted.” He says a change must happen or dining out may become a thing of the past.  “What is going to help restaurants be able to get through the cold weather, our changes to the indoor dining restrictions that will allow for the use of physical barriers between booths and tables and possibly even increasing the number of people permitted at a table.”

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