Hopes arise for a return to normal. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Mark Ridley and his wife enjoyed the brewery industry so much they opened a business three and a half years ago to sell some of the most unique beers in the country.

Two fan favorites, Ridley said, are Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, a German beer, and Rekorderlig Cider from Sweden.

“Those are never coming off the menu,” he said while laughing at The Brass Tap National Harbor.

But it hasn’t been all smiles for the Bowie resident.

Although Prince George’s County will allow his bar and other establishments to operate up to 50 percent capacity, certain restrictions are still required.

Except when drinking and eating, patrons must wear masks and tables must be separated to provide adequate social distancing. Customers cannot stand at the bar.

“At one time, we were shut down for two months completely. Then we had to only do carry-out. Then had to do outdoor dining,” Ridley said. “We don’t know what to think as business owners. We are just trying to survive.”

Other establishments limited to operating at 50 percent capacity are movie theaters, gyms and hair salons.

Private indoor gatherings are limited to 20 people and outdoor get-togethers at 50 people.

When people step outside their home, they must still wear masks and adhere to the six feet of social distance at all businesses and on public transportation.

“We will take a measured approach to reopening [and] modifying current restrictions on businesses and other establishments,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks during a press briefing Thursday, March 11. “These decisions were made based on the science and advice of our public health officials.”

Prince George’s guidelines are different from what Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan instituted because the county continues to lead the state with the most confirmed coronavirus cases.

The majority of counties will follow Hogan’s order to relax capacities at churches, bowling alleys and restaurants.

Large indoor and outdoor venues including movie theaters, concert venues and Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, will be allowed up to 50 percent capacity.

The Orioles announced on social media Friday, March 12 it will begin the season at 25 percent capacity “in order to ensure social distancing and prioritizing the safety of all fans.” The team’s home opener is scheduled for April 8.

Hogan stressed a statewide mandate to wear masks and maintain six feet of social distancing will continue. Because of that, no establishment will reach 100 percent capacity.

In addition, the state of emergency remains in effect.

The Republican governor eliminated capacity limits due to a decrease in hospitalizations, the COVID-19 positivity rate below 4 percent and the achievement of 670,000 people fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden wants all states and the District of Columbia to make sure adults are eligible for vaccines by May 1.

In Maryland, jurisdictions such as Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City can impose stricter guidelines.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the city will keep its current restrictions such as 25 percent capacity for indoor dining and 50 percent outdoor dining. The city ranks fourth in the state with confirmed coronavirus cases.

“Our approach will not change,” he said Friday. “Our nation and our city are still very much in the midst of this pandemic.”

Prince George’s neighbor, Montgomery County, ranks second in the state with the most confirmed cases and number one in deaths.

Montgomery County Council voted Friday to increase indoor dining capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent starting March 26.

Similar to Prince George’s, indoor gatherings increased to 25 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people. Houses of worship can conduct services at 50 percent capacity.

Council also voted to cut the 10 p.m. time limit for bars and restaurants to serve alcohol.

“We are implementing a phased approach to reopening that will allow our community to get our students and teachers back in the classroom safely, expand business opportunities and restore recreational and social activities in a way that doesn’t unduly jeopardize public health,” County Executive Marc Elrich and council said in a statement. “County leaders will continue focusing on what works, listening to our public health experts and acting based on the needs of our community because public health is the key to a sustained and robust recovery for all.”

As for Ridley in Prince George’s, he’s hoping the capacity increases bring back workers and customers for all businesses.

During this time last year, The Brass Tap employed between 35 to 40 people. Now, it’s slightly more than 20.

“It is still difficult to keep all the employees. If you don’t have the volume of customers, it’s hard to keep employees,” Ridley said. “Just like medical workers, people working in the service industry are on the front lines with people coming in every day. Hopefully things will improve.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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