2021 | Courts

Lawsuit against county dismissed due to lifting of indoor dining restrictions

Parties agreed on dismissal

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A Montgomery County judge agreed to dismiss a lawsuit on Thursday objecting to the county’s soon-to-expire ban on indoor dining after the parties agreed the litigation was not necessary.

The Montgomery County Council approved an executive order by County Executive Marc Elrich on Tuesday, which allows restaurants to open at 25% capacity indoors starting on Sunday at 7 a.m. Customers are limited to 90 minutes inside, under the order.

On Thursday, Ed Hartman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said their case is “moot” due to the lifting of the dining restrictions this week, and asked for the case to be dismissed Silvia Kinch, who represents the county, agreed.

Judge James Bonifant dismissed the case.

The county had banned indoor dining on Dec. 15 in response to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Under the ban, restaurants could only serve meals outdoors, in heated tents or for takeout and delivery.

A couple days after the dining ban was passed, more than 30 restaurateurs in the county and the Restaurant Association of Maryland filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court. Following a 12-hour hearing on Dec. 23, Bonifant upheld the county’s order, but said he wanted to hold another hearing to review the matter further.

In the weeks since the December hearing, the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions in Maryland that had banned indoor dining have begun to allow it at reduced capacity. The restaurant association had lobbied Montgomery County officials to lift its dining ban.

Following the council’s decision to lift the ban on Tuesday, restaurant association President Marshall Weston said he was “pleased Montgomery County is joining the rest of the region” in allowing indoor dining.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdsamagazine.com