Baltimore County is launching a $2.5 million fund to reimburse restaurants and other eateries for investments that improve their business’s safety conditions in response to coronavirus and extend the outdoor dining season, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced on Tuesday.
“Baltimore County’s restaurant community plays a vital role in our local economy and we will continue doing our part to support their recovery,” Olszewski said in a statement. “As the season changes, we’re proud to provide these new funds to our restaurateurs in support of their efforts to keep patrons and employees safe and comfortable during the colder months ahead.”
The COVID-19 Small Business Restaurant Reimbursement Program will provide restaurants and food service businesses up to $15,000 for capital expenditures, fixtures, equipment and cleaning-disinfecting services to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Such investments may include protective shields, transaction windows, patio heaters, outdoor furniture and tents, signage that promotes social distancing and other safety guidelines, and HVAC or filtration systems.
Businesses will be able to apply for the reimbursement program starting at 9 a.m. on Oct. 19. Funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Baltimore County restaurants and food businesses must have been operational as of Jan. 1 and have had to limit or stop operations due to COVID-19 to be eligible for the program. They must also be registered and in good standing with Maryland’s State Department of Assessments and Taxation, and must not be in default on any Baltimore County loans or delinquent on any county taxes.
In June, Baltimore County began closing a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue in Towson to vehicle traffic on weekends so that restaurants could expand outdoor seating into the street as part of their Seats on the Streets initiative with the Towson Chamber of Commerce.
About a month later, Olszewski urged Hogan to shut down indoor dining, calling it “not currently safe” at the time. The county executive advocated for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery as safer alternatives.
But in September, when Hogan raised restaurants’ indoor dining capacity to 75%, Baltimore County once again eased their indoor dining restrictions. Meanwhile, Olszewski continued to encourage county residents to opt for lower risk activities, such as takeout and outdoor dining.
For more information about the reimbursement program, business owners can email COVIDbizrelief@baltimorecountymd.gov.