Judge blocks executive order that bans indoor dining in Anne Arundel County

A judge has blocked an executive order from Anne Arundel County that bans indoor dining, allowing it to continue until at least Dec. 28 when there is a hearing scheduled.

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The ruling says in part, "the plaintiffs have a sufficient and reasonably likelihood of success on the merits, as the county executive appears to have relied on a selective interpretation of the data relating to COVID-19 matters that ignores or minimizes other sources of COVID-19 contact, and has not clearly explained the overall hospital capacity in Anne Arundel County as it relates to COVID exposure."

The restrictions in the executive order were set to go into place at 5 p.m. Wednesday night, just hours after the judge's ruling.

Several restaurants in the county took legal action to stay open just a few days ago, including Joe LeFavor, owner of Adam's Tap House and Grille in Severna Park.

He says after the news about the judge's ruling, customers at his restaurant gave a standing ovation.

"I just feel that shutting us down was a huge penalty, not only on myself as an owner, but especially on my employees," LeFavor says. "You know, a couple of weeks before Christmas was going to make life extremely difficult for them and their families and this at least gives us some time."

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“We’re trying to survive. I mean, this is our livelihood,” said Kurt Beall, owner Heroes Pub in Annapolis, also part of the legal effort. “Just this weekend there were lacrosse games going on right up the street from my restaurant. I just don’t understand how were the bad guy.”

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman tells FOX 5 he believes his executive order was necessary, but also feels for those in the restaurant industry.

“I’m very sympathetic,” Pittman said. “They’ve worked so hard to try to stop the spread of this virus with all of their protocols and best practices. There’s just nothing that you can do to overcome the fact that people are indoors with people outside their pod, without masks eating and drinking and it does increase the spread.”

Pittman’s executive order banned both indoor and outdoor dining, but he reversed course on outdoor dining, also hours before the restrictions were set to go into place. He announced Wednesday afternoon that outdoor dining would be permitted as long as 50 percent of tent sides were down.

Pittman released this full statement in response to the judge’s ruling:

"We are disappointed in Judge Mulford's ruling granting a temporary restraining order of our COVID restrictions on in person dining. We believe the science from public health experts is clear and it shows that taking actions to limit situations where people gather without masks will prevent the spread of this virus and ultimately save lives. We look forward to a full hearing on the merits of the case and in the meantime are discussing other options to protect the health of our residents by limiting community spread and flattening the ongoing COVID surge in our county."