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

Plans to tighten COVID-19 restrictions in Montgomery County will likely move forward next week.

On Thursday, the county council was supposed to vote on new restrictions that would reduce capacity at several establishments to 25 percent from 50 and require restaurants to hold onto contact tracing information for 30 days, but the vote has been postponed until Tuesday.

READ MORE: Montgomery County considers tightening COVID-19 restrictions

Other restrictions include gatherings limited to 25 than the current 50.

During the discussion, some councilmembers wanted to know if the new order is approved, then will it be enough time for businesses to comply.

“Is there some reasonable threshold moving forward as we look at scaling things back that can provide more leeway?” asked Councilman Gabe Albornoz during the virtual meeting. “I think we can an attempt to give a little bit more lead time but at the same time it will not be what we would like to do, to provide weeks of notice,” said Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security.

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

Marshall Weston, president and CEO of the Maryland Restaurant Association, said proposed restrictions on county restaurants for a second time during this pandemic will wreak havoc on the already struggling restaurant industry.

“Very frustrated with contact tracing data where elected officials even admit that restaurants are not a source of the COVID spread,” said Weston. “We have all learned that it is household gatherings house parties, social gatherings that are the things that are contributing to the spread of COVID right now. Elected officials continue to think of restaurants as the opportunity to do something that will ultimately stop the spread of this virus and that concerns us because restaurants operate with extreme health protocols in place.”

Sam Malhotra of Brews and Barrels said he and his staff have been able to get by with the advantage of having outside seating and were planning to add more winterizing equipment to continue utilizing that option.

“It’s going to be very tough to survive you know? And revenues are definitely very slow,” explained Malhotra.

One other restriction included in the new order is the late-night alcohol program which would be suspended. Meaning restaurants cannot sell alcohol on the premises after 10 p.m. but carry-out alcohol will remain unchanged.

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