Outdoor Dining Opens Up Friday In Howard County

Kristin Danley-Greiner
·4 min read

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Restaurants across Howard County can open for outdoor seating starting Friday at 5 p.m. Restaurants and bars that do not currently have outdoor seating options will receive information from county officials as to how they can accommodate their operations. Restaurants still can use curbside pickup.

“Howard County has an incredible restaurant and bar community, and we want these businesses to be able to reopen safely and effectively,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in a news release. “Outdoor seating is a meaningful first step and we’re hopeful that if our data trends continue in the right direction we can resume more activities. Our team is working with our health department and local businesses to adjust and provide guidance on how to accommodate those without outdoor seating currently. We hope to have some creative solutions in the coming days.”

Leonardo McClarty, chief executive officer of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, noted that "this is a major first step in getting our businesses open once again.”

“The announcement to allow outside seating is a huge step for our county and restaurants which contribute greatly to our community both economically and as a major employer of people,” said McClarty.

Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer, reminded residents that “continued social distancing practices will be necessary to maintain our successful efforts.”

Because Gov. Hogan announced a modified reopening of restaurants Wednesday, Howard County revisited all food consumption restrictions. As Howard County moves closer to a full Phase 1 Reopening, also as of 5 p.m. Friday, food consumption restrictions will be lifted for faith institutions.

Last night, the Howard County Health Department (HCHD) received a delivery of 14 pallets of PPE from the Maryland Department of Health. HCHD staff is currently conducting an inventory of the supplies and currently appears to have enough PPE to provide for nursing homes and county agencies for 30 days. According to the Maryland Department of Health, Howard County’s seven-day rolling average of positive tests is 8.6 percent as of May 27.

Guidance for Restaurant and Bars for Outdoor Seating
Dining Area

  • The maximum number of customers at any one outdoor table setting shall be six people.

  • Physical distancing of at least 6 feet between outdoor seating tables shall be maintained. Businesses shall design their seating areas to accommodate these minimum specifications.

  • Customers will not be permitted to stand in the outdoor seating area and must be assigned a table.

  • While waiting to be seated, appropriate physical distancing guidelines will be maintained. If space does not allow for appropriate physical distancing, customer will be asked to wait in their cars or other off-premise area.

  • Self-serve buffets will not be allowed.

  • Display clear signage for proper social distancing procedures and ingress and egress.

  • If a restaurant is also engaging in curbside pickup, those operations are separate and separate staff are assigned to each operation without crossover.

  • Seating with temporary plexiglass physical barriers between guests, such as in the bar area, may be utilized without the 6 feet distance requirement between bar stools provided that the physical distancing intent is maintained, and the physical barrier prevents guests from coming into contact with one another.


  • Restaurants and bars will adhere to the guidelines and best practices from the CDC, the FDA and the National Restaurant Association COVID-19 Reopening Guidance document.

  • Handwash station (s) for must be provided in outdoor area for employees to wash their hands (may be a temporary set-up or portable sink).

  • Hand sanitizer will be available upon entry and exit for guests, or hand washing facilities will be readily available.

  • Tables and chairs will be sanitized after each use.

  • Use a menu that can be printed daily and disposable after each use.

  • Use disposable containers for condiments so there are no shared condiments between different customer groups.

  • Bathrooms must be frequently cleaned. Manage the number of customers allowed to access the bathroom. There is no congregating while waiting for the bathroom.


  • All employees will complete a health screening prior to their shift in line with the recommended guidance from governor.

  • Employees interacting with customers will be required to wear face coverings or utilize other protective equipment, such as plexiglass barriers, in keeping with public health guidelines relating to COVID-19.

  • There should be dedicated staff to handle payments – no interaction with food handling or serving and incorporate the payment location into the egress flow (last stop) of the operation with appropriate distancing.

  • There should be different employees for busing the tables (should not be the same wait staff handling the food).

  • Staff should undergo COVID “training” as it pertains to their operations with a signoff that they have completed the training.

  • If become aware of staff that are confirmed COVID positive, that they contact the Health Department through the warm line (410) 313-6284 so any needed follow-up can occur.

This article originally appeared on the Columbia Patch