BALTIMORE (WJZ) – It was a big day for restaurant and bar owners in Baltimore as COVID-19 restrictions on food were eased for the first time in six weeks.
At Café Blue Moon Too, employees cleaned the front door every 15 minutes, jotting down customers' names and phone numbers, and wiping the tables as part of the coronavirus protocol restaurants must maintain in order to reopen.
Despite the extra work, the employees were happy to see customers coming through the doors again.
The morning hustle and bustle at Blue Moon Too in Federal Hill – indoor and outdoor dining continues in Baltimore City today. Guests here are required to provide their name / phone number for contact tracing, take their temperature, and stay for a maximum of 1 hour, but the staff is just happy to see customers again @wjz pic.twitter.com/0YYhFFkPHn
– Annie Rose Ramos (@AnnieRoseNews) January 22, 2021
"It's super exciting," said Shelly Layfield of Blue Moon Too.
Federal Hill had a brisk breakfast mornings, something restaurants haven't seen in weeks.
The staff at Bar Vasquez in Harbor East were similarly excited, General Manager Charisse Nichols said before 5 p.m. in the restaurant. Reopening.
Nichols said she was "overjoyed" with the reopening.
"We all came in last night, hands on deck, making sure everything was properly cleaned so we were comfortable in this room. By doing this we can make our guests feel warm," said she.
Bar Vasquez has also performed temperature tests for customers.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced on Wednesday that he would lift restrictions on bars and restaurants, gyms and some entertainment venues on Friday at 6 a.m.
"With the recent leveling in cases, I've made the decision to adjust our city's COVID-19 mandates," Scott said in a press conference on Wednesday.
The change brings new restrictions: indoor eating is limited to 25% and outdoor eating is limited to 50%.
"It was strange not being able to sit down in places or socialize," said Claire, a customer.
Diners like Claire, however, are limited to just one hour in restaurants. This hour includes the time spent in a bar and restaurant. This means that customers can't spend an hour in a restaurant bar and then sign up for another hour to eat.
"We write the times and regularly go back and check them and make sure everyone comes in and out within an hour," Layfield said.
Eating on-site has been banned since December and restaurants have been limited to pick-up and delivery services.
"It's been difficult the last few weeks," said Layfield.
With the city now having the lowest positivity rate in the state, the restaurant's staff are hoping they won't have to close again.
"We hope this is definitely the last time and things can only get better!" Layfield added.
Mel Carter of the Blue Hill Tavern, meanwhile, couldn't believe the restrictions were being lifted.
"I was a bit shocked because we heard a lot of rumors along the way. We didn't expect it," he said.
Now that the doors are open, he is optimistic about the future as the restaurant looks towards its 12th birthday in July.
"December 14th was the last day we were allowed to be open," Carter said. "The outpouring from the community has been amazing so we're back up and running, we'll be there for sure."
The new changes will remain in effect in Baltimore for at least the next four weeks.
The National Restaurant Association said the industry lost over $ 100 billion. Under the new rules, bars and breweries that do not serve food will open for the first time since they closed in November.
For the latest information on coronavirus, visit the Maryland Health Department website or call 211. All WJZ coverage of coronavirus in Maryland is here.