The Restaurant Association of Maryland has filed a lawsuit against Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties as well as Baltimore City regarding indoor and outdoor dining.
This comes after Anne Arundel County restaurants were successful in fighting that same restriction.
Marshall Weston, Jr., President & CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland said the goal is for indoor and outdoor dining to be restored.
"Without real evidence that restaurants are a source of COVID spread, these jurisdictions cannot shutter these restaurants and ask tens of thousands of servers, bartenders and other restaurants employees to shoulder the burden of losing their jobs in the hopes of slowing the spread of the virus," said Weston, Jr.According to the CDC and local epidemiologist Dr. Amira Roess, indoor dining has been repeatedly linked to COVID-19 infections and outbreaks due to people taking off their mask to eat and drink. This lawsuit states the restaurants want to see that evidence and proof.
Since the start of the pandemic, Maryland’s restaurant and foodservice industry has lost approximately $1.4 billion in sales and has seen as many as 150,000 restaurant employees laid off or furloughed, according to the Restaurant Association of Maryland.
FOX 5 spoke to waitress Michelle Robinson who says she feels the restaurant industry is being targeted.
"I was in Target, not even two days ago, and it was more than 300 people in there," Robinson says. "I went to Towson Mall to go shopping. The whole mall was over capacity. I’m like, there were so many people there. So if the restaurant industry is closed down, then why are these other businesses still open and making progress?"
The attorney representing the restaurants, Joseph Zauner, explains the reasoning behind the lawsuit.
"The basis of this complaint in all four jurisdictions is that in none of them has any medical or scientific evidence been presented to say things will be better off if you close restaurants than if you leave them open," Zauner says. "The challenge is you’ve done a thing, but you haven’t told us why you did the thing."
Prince George's County Communications Director says they have been offering financial assistance to restaurants during these difficult times, but did not address the specific issue of the emergency injunctions.
Here is Gina Ford, Prince George’s County Executive Communications Director, response:
"This unprecedented pandemic has presented serious and previously unimaginable challenges to communities across this nation, state and our County. We understand that a number of industries have been adversely impacted by this pandemic, to include the restaurant industry. For this reason, we have made efforts to provide financial assistance, dispersing $7.6 million to our restaurants alone through the Restaurant Resiliency Fund, and that does not include those who applied for and received funding from the $20 million Business Recovery Initiative. All of our efforts throughout this challenging time have been, not only to sustain restaurants, but to ensure they recover after COVID-19 leaves our community. Throughout this pandemic, we have worked in lock-step with our health officials to make difficult decisions to preserve the health and lives of Prince Georgians."
FOX 5 is waiting to hear back from Montgomery County.
Once the court picks a judge to decide on this case, a decision will be made. The attorneys expect to know Monday if restaurants will be allowed to reopen for indoor dining.