ELKTON — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement that the mandate to wear masks in outdoor dining areas was lifted is welcome news to Cecil County restaurants.
“It’s always great to make a move in the direction of normalcy,” said Lee Lewis, general manager of Elk River Brewing Company. “This is huge and very helpful for us.”
Even as the rate of COVID infections continues to fluctuate in the county, residents continue to get vaccinated and restrictions are slowly being eased.
Debbie Brown, executive director of the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce, also greeted the news happily.
“We are excited for Governor Hogan’s decision to lift outdoor mask requirements and ease restrictions on outdoor dining,” Brown said via email. “It is a vital part of our community to be social and connect with each other, while also adhering to the mandates of being safe for ourselves and others around us.”
While Elk River Brewing Company has a handful of tables in front of the brewery at 112 East Main St., which it shares with C3ntral Tavern at 107 East Main, Lewis said the removal of the mask mandate will push the green light for the bier garden to the rear of the brewery.
“We have an entire back yard for the bier garden with two fire pits,” Lewis said.
Hogan lifted the mandate effectively immediately Wednesday afternoon. He also announced that, effective May 1 standing service may resume at outdoor bars and restaurants.
At Granite Run Tap Room, 26 South Main St. in Port Deposit, the relaxed mandate is also good news, but Jessica Smith said it doesn’t have much impact.
“It’s really nice to hear but because our space is so small it might not affect us,” Smith, manager of the restaurant, said Thursday.
While there is not the space to add many tables, she did realize that it would make it easier for her staff to maneuver around.
“We could squeeze in a few more (chairs) maybe but this will make it more effective for us to do business,” Smith said. Jason Usilton, owner of Granite Run Taproom, said it’ll be easier for staff to work in the heat and exertion of waiting on tables.
Smith also said when there is live music people tend to congregate nearby and listen.
Like many others, Brown sees this as forward motion.
“We are optimistic about the confidence of our Cecil County businesses and residents to return to a more normal operating procedure as we enjoyed in early 2020 and prior,” Brown said.