Maryland restaurants say increasing capacity isn’t that simple due to social distancing requirements

As of Monday, Maryland restaurants can go from 50 percent to 75 percent capacity as the state continues to see progress in the COVID-19 positivity rating and rate of hospitalization.

Most counties in the D.C. region are opting out, including Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Frederick counties.

But even in counties moving forward, like Howard County, increasing capacity is something easier said than done.

READ MORE: Gov. Larry Hogan expands capacity for indoor dining; marks start of first Maryland Restaurant Week

FOX 5 spoke to several restaurants who said they are unable to increase capacity because the state still requires tables to be six feet apart and limits guests to six to a table.

Megan Purcell, bar manager at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia, said space is the issue.

“If you have a walk around and look in each of the rooms, the space itself doesn’t change and the six feet hasn’t changed,” said Purcell. “So it hasn’t really helped add more tables. What we’re really hoping it does is change people’s mindset, makes them feel a little safer coming out.”

READ MORE: DMV restaurants following COVID-19 guidelines worry about outdoor dining with winter approaching

Other restaurant owners and managers made the same point –– that public perception is important, and it’s great that Maryland continues to lift restrictions.

Marshall Weston, President and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said he would like to see the state health department allow restaurants to use physical barriers to separate tables and reduce the amount of required space between tables.

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“Restaurants that I’ve spoken to feel that they could use these physical barriers to create a safe environment for their diners and their staff as well,” said Weston. “And we’ve learned that other states do allow for the barriers, so we would like to see Maryland move in that direction.”

Weston said the association still fears up to 40 percent of the state’s restaurants could close by the end of the year.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced increased capacity limits to coincide with Maryland Restaurant Week. Many restaurants are offering deals available while dining in or taking out.