Judge Upholds Indoor Dining Ban

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge upheld a ban on indoor dining late Wednesday evening after a 12-hour hearing, concurring with judges in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City that made similar decisions earlier in the same day.

A group of Montgomery County restaurants and bars, including several in Silver Spring, had filed suit against Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, objecting to the terms of the most recent Executive Order 139-20AM2.

The order, approved by the County Council, eliminated indoor dining and provided other restrictions, as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The owners of Olazzo at 8235 Georgia Ave., Sheger Spring Café at 900 Silver Spring Ave., and Palisades Lounge at 8211 Georgia Ave. are listed as plaintiffs in the suit filed last week in Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs principally took issue with the order’s claim that the restrictions are “necessary and reasonable” in order to prevent the virus’ spread.

“Restaurants and bars are not a significant source of COVID contamination,” the suit reads. “There is no support for the proposition that destroying the foodservice industry in Montgomery County will have any material impact on the rate of transmission of COVID-19.”

The plaintiffs then claimed that closing these establishments would “cause immeasurable, immediate and irreparable injury to citizens of Montgomery County,” specifically restaurant employees, owners, suppliers, those who service and maintain the industry, landlords and property owners.

According to Bethesda Beat, Judge James Bonifant said Wednesday that he would not enter an injunction against the county’s ban. But he will schedule another preliminary injunction hearing just after the holidays because he thinks there is “more to review.”

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s ruling,” Elrich said on Twitter late Wednesday night. “The steps we have taken throughout the pandemic were done out of a grave concern for public health and today’s ruling supported that notion.”

“Tonight’s ruling regarding indoor dining is good news for public safety,” said County Council President Tom Hucker on Twitter. “Throughout the pandemic, the County’s actions have been taken out of grave concern for public health. Tonight’s ruling – after a very thorough 12-hr hearing – supported that fact.”

“Restaurant” by twicepix is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0