On Wednesday morning, I held a briefing to clarify the end of the State of Maryland’s State of Emergency on August 15th per Governor Hogan’s actions. As part of that briefing, per my authority as Mayor, I announced that I would not remove the City’s State of Emergency given our current rate of transmission and vaccination rate. I also provided updates on actions the City was required to take per City legislation passed by the Board of Aldermen last August as a result of the State rescinding its State of Emergency. One of those actions was the 30-day sunset on the pop-up dining program.
Given where we are as a community in terms of vaccination rate and community transmission, and after hearing from many in the community who do not feel comfortable returning to our downtown core unless outside opportunities exist, this morning I am asking the Board of Aldermen to adjust the pop-up dining ordinance to align with the City’s State of Emergency. By doing so, we can ensure that our actions are tied to our public health metrics and not the State’s as a whole. By doing so, it also gives the City control of this program so we can remain nimble as this pandemic continues to influence our daily actions. I am also directing the Parking Department and Department of Economic Development to reintroduce the curbside pickup zones in a modified format to support visits to our retailers and other businesses who may be seeing a dip in indoor visitors.
I understand we have community members and businesses who love the outdoor dining opportunity and prefer outdoor dining for safety and protection. I also know that others in the community see parklets and other dining alterations as barriers to the complete use of our downtown amenities. In fact, some restaurateurs have already requested the early removal of their parklets. The variety of opinions, like many things we do, is real, and the concerns I am hearing on all fronts are valid. Our job is to strike the appropriate balance between these competing interests. This remains an ever-evolving situation and we will continue to respond as necessary always in the direction of maintaining public health and public safety.
While this deadline is the first, it is our intention to review all of the ordinances passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and bring them into alignment with the City’s State of Emergency.