Second Hearing in Indoor Dining Ban Lawsuit Might Happen Next Month

Another hearing in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the County’s indoor dining ban might happen in February, according to a report from Bethesda Beat.

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

Presiding judge James Bonifant’s law clerk, Alexandra Mussler, told Bethesda Beat last week that the plaintiffs’ attorneys sent a letter expressing interest in participating in a second hearing.

Bonifant upheld a ban on indoor dining just before Christmas 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.

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 month in Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs, represented by the Restaurant Association of Maryland, principally took issue with the order’s claim that the restrictions are “necessary and reasonable” 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.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s ruling,” Elrich said on Twitter shortly after the December ruling. “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.”

“No one likes indoor dining to be closed, but since Montgomery County closed indoor dining, COVID cases associated with restaurant workers are down 60%,” said County Council President Tom Hucker in a Twitter post on Sunday. “Minor changes in data can often lead to multiple interpretations, but that is a very significant figure.”

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

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