GRASONVILLE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Several Maryland business owners on the Eastern Shore say they’re up against the clock, calling on Governor Larry Hogan to reopen the state as COVID-19 closures now move toward summer, a critical season for business owners on the Eastern Shore. In particular, restaurant owners are pleading with the governor to resume indoor dining and lift crowd restrictions.
Those business owners gathered on Kent Island in Grasonville on Monday. Around 100 people gathered to hear a restaurant owner, a gym owner, a wedding venue owner and even the owner of Trimper’s Rides in Ocean City, share their stories of struggling through this pandemic.
Susan Jones is with the Ocean City Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association and was among the multiple people who drove two hours to attend the Monday protest.
“We are getting calls daily, visitors asking what is open, what can I do in your city. And if they don’t like what you tell them, then they choose to go to Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach because there’s a lot more to do in those areas right now,” Jones told FOX 5.
An Eastern Shore gym owner’s voice trembled as she held back tears and forced the words: “There’s a family here that needs this gym because it is our business.”
The owner of Tenchi, a Spanish-American restaurant in Greensboro said everything their family has physically, emotionally and financially is connected to their business. That owner compared March 16th to a bad break-up through text.
March 16th was the day Maryland Governor Larry Hogan ordered restaurants and bars to close their indoor spaces due to COVID19.
On Monday, the Governor’s spokesperson shared a tweet noting that COVID 19 hospitalizations in the state trended downward for the 12th day in a row. Michael Ricci said in part of an emailed response, the “Governor is committed to a safe, gradual and effective reopening.” Ricci also said the Phase 2 reopening has multiple steps. It’s not solely what was announced last week.
Lawmakers who make up the Eastern Shore Delegation where also in attendance. The Maryland legislator representing Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, Sen. Stephen Hersey, led the protest. Sen. Hershey said they are not there to criticize the governor but hope the governor will hear some of the business owners’ suggestions on how to reopen.
The Restaurant Association of Maryland’s president said around 150,000 restaurant workers were laid off due to the pandemic. Marshall Weston tells FOX 5 that’s every 3 out of 4 restaurant workers.
Many of the business owners say they’ve followed the rules, arguing it doesn’t make sense to remain closed when several big-box stores like Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Lowes were allowed to remain open – and receive large crowds throughout the entire pandemic.
“Ocean City has 90 days to make money. Memorial Day to Labor Day. Every week that we are closed is equivalent to one month in every other business in the state of Maryland,” said Trimper’s Rides owner Antoinette Bruno, “So Governor …the clock is ticking. We need to get open.”