NEW MARKET, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - It’s a controversial topic all over D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – how late should bars and restaurants be able to stay open during the pandemic?
In Frederick County, officials say 10 p.m. is the cut-off, but one bar owner has other ideas.
"I don't want to lead a protest down to city hall and say open up the restaurants, you know, with pitchforks blazing," explained Dan Caiola, who owns The Derby Restaurant & Bar. "We want to be able to do what's best for ourselves, our staff, and our family."
Here’s the deal: The Derby is in the town of New Market, which is in Frederick County.
Right now, Frederick County restaurants are supposed to close at 10 p.m., per County Executive Jan Gardner’s order, but The Derby is not. That's because, at Caiola’s urging, Mayor Winslow Burhans created his own executive order saying the town would not follow Frederick County's rule. Instead, they're following Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's order, which says bars and restaurants can stay open later than 10 p.m. as of February 1.
"Two hours a day for seven days, it's 14 hours. That's a good bit of business. That's a full day," Caiola told FOX 5 Tuesday, adding that his profits are down more than 50 percent during the pandemic.
Caiola went on to explain that he knows COVID-19 is extremely dangerous, which is why he doesn’t object to enforcing safety measures like requiring masks or social distancing.
But for some, that may not be enough.
When Caiola posted his bar’s decision on Facebook, it drew a huge response. Some people left comments like, "way to stand up for yourselves!" Meanwhile, others said things like, "this is reckless and selfish when COVID rates are spiking."
As for Frederick County, a spokesperson told FOX 5 The Derby isn’t breaking any laws.
The county also released a statement, reading: "Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner decided to delay the opening of restaurant and bars in the county past 10 p.m. for two weeks to protect public health and welfare. Frederick County has experienced higher rates of new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations than the statewide averages. January recorded the highest number of deaths in the county since the beginning of the pandemic. Executive Gardner has worked hard throughout the pandemic to coordinate with the 12 municipalities in the county while recognizing the right of municipal leaders to make their own decisions. The County Executive continues to urge every resident and business in the county to do their part to fight the spread of the virus and protect the health of themselves and their neighbors."
Reached for comment, Mayor Burhans said he absolutely respects the county executive’s decision, however, he believes allowing bars and restaurants to safely stay open until midnight is the right decision for his small town in particular. He added The Derby is the only bar in New Market remaining open that late.