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Montgomery Co. to stay in Phase 2, but will lessen restrictions on live events and performances

Maryland as a state will move into Phase 3, but Montgomery County will not after moving into Phase 2 in late June.

WASHINGTON — Montgomery County will stay in Phase 2 as the state of Maryland moves into Phase 3 — but live entertainment and performances in the county will have fewer restrictions, and be able to happen. 

In the statement from the county, venues such as indoor and outdoor restaurants may now include live performances as part of their dining experience.

These guidelines for live music are effective immediately, individuals present must still wear masks unless they are eating or drinking (and they must be seated while eating and drinking).

“Although we will not be moving into Phase 3, we will continue to evaluate areas where restrictions might be modified,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “Allowing live music with restrictions at restaurants is an example of the cautious steps that we are taking toward reopening; and we will work on appropriate guidance for other live venues beyond what we're doing for restaurants. Our careful, measured approach using data and science to make our decisions is likely part of the reasons that transmission of the virus in Montgomery County has remained relatively stable over the last few months.”

While restaurants and bars will be allowed to have live performances, music venues and theaters still will not.

The decision to continue to prohibit theaters from having live performances disappointed Bonnie Fogel, founder and executive director of Imagination Stage in Bethesda.

Fogel said her theater, which caters mainly to children, has lost roughly $1.5 million in income since March.

“In a theater, we're going to be sitting there, with masks on, very appropriately spaced," she said.

Fogel said she was hopeful Montgomery County would at least entertain allowing theaters to hold outdoor live performances.

"Let's get back into our theaters or at least let's put our theaters on the street," she said.

Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said it is a matter the county is continuing to look into.

"We continue to review and continue to meet with representatives from those respective industries to discuss how we could potentially do so and do so in a safe manner," he said.

Montgomery County's decision not to allow all businesses to hold live performances came under some criticism Friday in Annapolis.

Mike Ricci, communications director for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, said Elrich requested Hogan allow live performances in Maryland to occur in front of audiences of less than 50 people.

Ricci tweeted a picture of Elrich's letter that was sent to Governor Hogan on August 13.

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