June 21, 2024
Annapolis, US 90 F

Decision on indoor dining in Anne Arundel County likely to come on December 30th

The million dollar question remains if Judge William Mulford will uphold or shoot down Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman’s Executive Order closing all dining establishments for inside and outside dining.

A Temporary Restraining Order was issued by Mulford on December 16th giving restaurants a bit of a reprieve; but the plaintiffs who include the owners of the Blackwall Hitch, Smashing Grapes, Heroes Pub, La Posta, and Adam’s Ribs have testified that the restrictions are too severe to remain in business and that carryout and curbside would not be enough to sustain them.

On Monday morning  Judge Mulford (who is a former Republican County Councilman for District 6) indicated that this might move into a multi-day trial and reserved time on the 29th for a continuance.

During the first day, the Judge heard from the four plaintiffs as well as psychologist Dr. Maureen Vernon on the mental and emotional tolls of the pandemic and the closures.  James King, CEO of Titan Hospitality Group which owns the Blackwall Hitch ,Smashing Grapes and Blackwall Barn & Lodge, testified that if Pittman’s order was to stand, he would have to close three of his restaurants.  King is also a former Republican Delegate for District 33A. Shortly before noon, the Judge recessed the court for 90 minutes and was expected to rule on Vernon’s testimony, and it’s applicability to this case, later this afternoon.

After the recess, Mulford heard from a statistician along with some expert witnesses hired by the plaintiffs.  The day ended and proceedings were to resume again at 9:00am on December 29th.

On Tuesday, the Judge heard from Dr. Nilesh Kalynaraman, Anne Arundel County’s Health Officer and Dr. Eili Klein, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. These two laid out the process and metrics that are guiding the decisions ultimately made by County Executive Pittman.

Judge Mulford said that testimony would wrap up today (December 29th) with County Executive Pittman but that he would not release a decision until December 30, 2020 after he has had time to consider all the facts and to write an opinion/decision on the case.

With the case underway, the Judge’s initial Temporary Restraining Order is automatically extended until a decision is made. This allows restaurants to continue to operate as they were on December 15th, with indoor dining at 25% and outdoor at 50%.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

 

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