Last minute late night alcohol restriction takes Montgomery County bars and restaurants by ‘surprise’

A last minute order to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m. had many bars and restaurants in Montgomery County saying Friday, that the announcement came as a surprise.

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The order went into effect 5 p.m. Friday.

The rule isn’t something new but some restaurant and bar operators told FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan that they should have been given more time to prepare.

READ MORE: Tighter COVID-19 restrictions in Montgomery County could happen next week pending final vote

The reinstatement is part of a previous executive order from back in early October which requires bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m. unless the operator has a special waiver to serve alcoholic beverages until 12 a.m. 

Some establishments told Ayesha, they were under the impression that the suspension of the after-hours alcohol on premise was part of the new county executive order that council is currently mulling over and is expected to vote on this coming Tuesday.

READ MORE: Health experts say Montgomery County is not in a 'good place' as COVID-19 numbers climb

But just within recent days, the county, according to officials, has met two of the four health metric indicators that causes the cancellation of the waiver all together, meaning no serving of alcohol at all after 10 p.m.

In a late evening announcement Friday, the county released an explanation of the cancellation saying:

“Montgomery County’s Late-Night Alcohol Sales Program, which allows food service establishments to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. if they received a waiver from the County, will be cancelled effective Friday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. When the program was launched as part of Executive Order 114-20 in early October, regulations were issued that would automatically suspend the program if:

- the county’s three-day test positivity average exceeds 3.25 percent;

- the three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeds 100;

- there is an increased association of indoor and outdoor dining with COVID-19 positive contacts of greater than 3 percent combined;

- or more than 10 percent of inspected participants result in findings that warrant a citation, closure or revocation of a permit.
According to the County’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, the three-day average of new confirmed cases is 167 and the three-day test positivity average is 3.9 percent. 

The 198 businesses with a waiver to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. were notified on Thursday, Nov. 5 of the program’s cancellation.”

“Atleast maybe give us a little bit more guidance and say, ‘Hey next week you know, most likely we’re going to plan on doing this,’” said Graham Gursky, general manager of Quincy’s Bar & Grill.

“That gives us a week to figure out and plan what we’re gonna do in staffing and things like the additional inventory that I’m going to have now.”

“We are just pushing people to other states, pushing people to Virginia to D.C to PG County to Frederick County,” said Wesley Yao, owner of Kusshi Sushi.

“We’re pushing away the revenue.”

Even though alcohol and food establishments cannot serve alcohol on premise after 10 p.m., all carry-out, including alcohol, remains unchanged even after council takes a vote next week on a new proposed executive order.