Courtesy of Montgomery County via Twitter
Courtesy of Montgomery County via Twitter

The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban indoor dining and limit the number of people inside certain venues, part of an order by the county executive to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus amid a recent surge in cases.

Outdoor dining will still be allowed, but cannot take place between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Restaurants and other establishments that sell food can still offer carryout services.

“These are tough decisions, but we have to make them for public safety,” said Councilman Will Jawando (D-At-Large).

As of Tuesday, Montgomery County has 40,062 coronavirus cases, second statewide only to neighboring Prince George’s County, and 990 deaths, according to state health department statistics.

The latest restrictions in Montgomery County, based on an executive order recommended last week from County Executive Marc Elrich, take effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Those restrictions include:

• Indoor sports gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people.
• Retail businesses reduced to one person per 200 square feet and not to exceed a maximum of 150 people.
• Churches and other houses of worship remain capped at 25% capacity for indoor service. Religious leaders must request a letter of approval to conduct outdoor services for more than 25 people, down from 150.

Large retail establishments that want to accommodate more than 150 people after Dec. 23 must apply for exemption, including a business plan for monitoring those in the building and provide information on social distancing at the entrance, exit and checkout lines.

Those requests must be submitted by 5 p.m. Monday.

During the council meeting, Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery Council) released a statement that he plans to introduce proposed emergency state legislation to exempt county restaurants and bars from paying alcohol license fees this year.

Luedtke’s bill also seeks to reduce the fees paid by businesses with licenses to sell alcohol both on- and off-premises by half with the option of the county to retroactively reimburse half of the fees paid for 2020-21.

“Thousands of Montgomery County restaurants and bars, and the workers who staff them, are struggling to make ends meet right now,” he said. “This industry needs our help and reducing alcohol license fees is one small way to help them make it through COVID.”

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