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'It’s huge. It’s devastating' | Montgomery Co. restrictions bring more gloom for restaurants

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council approved an executive order capping capacity at 25% for retail stores and indoor restaurants.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — The Montgomery County Council approved an executive order from County Executive Marc Elrich on Tuesday that will once again limit capacity to 25% inside of restaurants and retail stores while also limiting gatherings to 25 people.

The order went into effect on Tuesday evening.

According to the order, the 25% capacity limit will apply to:

  • *Indoor restaurants
  • *Fitness centers
  • *Museums and art galleries
  • *Retail stores
  • *Churches and religious facilities

Gatherings of more than 25 people will also be prohibited for parties, receptions, parades, festivals and fundraisers. The county added that any large events must now be canceled or postponed.

On Tuesday, County Executive Marc Elrich pointed to rising coronavirus cases in Montgomery County for the executive order. 

“We have been watching the daily number of new cases go up for more than two weeks and it’s, unfortunately, time to roll back some of our reopening steps in order to decrease the spike we are seeing,” he wrote in a statement. “Like you, I am experiencing ‘COVID fatigue’ and want things to go back to normal, but we have to stay at this in order to protect the health of our community."

Restaurants have been especially hit hard by the pandemic restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

At All Set Restaurant & Bar on Tuesday evening, almost every indoor table sat empty as families and couples chose to eat outside on the patio instead.

Following the announcement of the executive order, Assistant General Manager William Rawls worried about the impact of the restrictions combined with expected cold weather this upcoming winter.

"What we’re most anxious about is losing our patio business as the temperature drops, which will be happening any day or week now," he said. "Unfortunately, it’s not going to be enough if we’re relying on 25% capacity and then delivery and takeout.” 

All Set has been in downtown Silver Spring for the last five years.

However, like many restaurants around the country, the pandemic has forced management to make big decisions and changes.

"We’re operating on a pretty shoestring staff as it is," Rawls said. "We’ve got managers taking tables and working at the front desk. Everyone is doing everything they can."

As part of the executive order, restaurants will also be required to gather names and contact information from customers to help with contact tracing efforts. The information will then be kept for at least 30 days by the business.

The requirement would not bring a change at All Set though, where the staff has already been gathering the info.

"When we seat our guests, on our menu we have a section for contact tracing. We sort of walk them through our policies," said Rawls, who noted that no positive cases of the virus had been reported at the restaurant. "We take it all very seriously. Hopefully, our guests feel safe. From the feedback we’ve gotten, they do.” 

Moving forward, restaurants and retail stores will keep feeling the impact of seeing fewer customers.

With the drop in business due to the pandemic and the restrictions, Rawls wondered how much longer the restaurant could stick around without any outside relief or stimulus.

"We’re just all working our butts off to make it through this," he said. "We’re doing everything we can and we’ll do anything we can to kind of get through this next period.” 

RELATED: Maryland decreases indoor dining capacity, expands travel advisories, activates hospital surge capacity

RELATED: Eating inside while outside. A new look for outdoor dining | Most DC Thing

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