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Baltimore To Continue Parking Lane, Sidewalk Closures For Outdoor Dining

Emily Sullivan/WYPR
Outdoor dining seating at a sidewalk outside of Sweet 27, a bar and restaurant in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood.

Residents who have enjoyed dining in Baltimore City streets will get to keep doing so, Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday. The city has extended programs that allow restaurants to request permission from the city to place seating in public rights-of-way like parking lanes and sidewalks.

“We know that our small businesses and restaurants are the backbone of our city and our economy, employing our residents, but also providing some of our deep, rich culture that we love here in Baltimore,” Scott said at a news conference outside Marie Louise Bistro in Mount Vernon.

Baltimore launched the Outdoor Dining Street Closure and Outdoor Seating Relief programs last year to create safer dining options during the pandemic, as restaurants and bars grappled with fluctuating COVID-19 restrictions that sometimes prohibited indoor dining. The programs have allowed businesses to increase their outdoor seating areas and keep patrons socially distanced.

Licensed food establishments may continue to apply online for dining options at sidewalks and/or parking lanes. Those applications are considered by the city Department of Housing & Community Development and Department of Transportation, respectively. The agencies mandate that Americans with Disabilities Act requirements are followed at all sites. Applicants will hear back within seven business days, according to a news release.

The programs have allowed city restaurants to survive, Councilman Eric T. Costello said.

“This program has helped power our restaurants throughout the pandemic as we looked at increased restrictions,” he said. “But more importantly, it positions our restaurants and our small business community to truly drive the economic recovery that we're going to see in Baltimore City.”

Shelonda Stokes, president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, said the parking lane program is especially useful in neighborhoods without wide sidewalks.

“If there was a bright spot in last year, it was our communities and our city government working together for the betterment of the small business community and the willingness to transform public realm into open air spaces that could be used by people to safely gather, exercise and dine with social distancing,” she said.