2021 | Coronavirus

Council to consider increasing capacity for restaurants, retail shops to 50%

Other changes could be made to gathering limits, child care on Friday

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Montgomery County is one step closer to reopening with proposed changes to loosen or lift certain restrictions regarding restaurants, child care and other businesses.

The County Council, in its capacity as the Board of Health, proposed a regulation Thursday night that would increase the capacity from 25% to 50% for indoor dining, retail shops, fitness centers and other businesses, starting March 26.

The proposal would also remove all local restrictions on child care facilities and require them to follow state requirements.

The rest of the changes proposed are:
● Increasing outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people
● Increasing indoor gatherings to a maximum of 25 people
● Eliminating the one person per 200 square feet of space limit
● Eliminating alcohol limits on food service facilities
● Eliminating the restriction on buffet service for food service facilities
● Increasing the capacity for religious facilities to 50%
● Permitting arts and entertainment facilities to open at 25% capacity, provided they do not sell or permit food for consumption in the facility, starting March 26

Except as otherwise noted, the rest of the order would go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m.

The County Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the regulation at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. The deadline for signing up to speak at the hearing is 11:30 a.m.

A staff report for the Board of Health stated that it would “implement a progressive, staged relaxation of restrictions so we can disaggregate the data and assess the impact of the relaxation of the restrictions in other jurisdictions before deciding what is safest for the residents of Montgomery County.”

The County Council must implement COVID-19 restrictions as a Board of Health under a change that was made by Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order issued on Tuesday.

Under Hogan’s order, jurisdictions will still be able to decide how and when to lift restrictions. But instead of relying on the governor’s order for that authority, counties will now have to reissue their restrictions and health orders under their own authority.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Hogan announced that capacity limits for indoor and outdoor dining would be removed across the state, starting Friday at 5 p.m. Restrictions were also lifted for retail shops, gyms, houses of worship and recreation facilities.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.