CUMBERLAND — City officials announced guidelines Friday for the anticipated return of city businesses and restaurants in a news release called "Reopening Cumberland."
Mayor Ray Morriss said businesses planning to expand to outside space, including restaurants with outdoor dining capabilities, should submit a plan to City Hall. Although some officials, including Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, are calling for outdoor dining to resume, restaurants and bars are currently not scheduled to reopen until Gov. Larry Hogan implements Phase 2 of the Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery. Phase 2 of the roadmap includes reopening restaurants and bars with some restrictions.
Morriss' news release said, "The city is encouraging any city business or organization that wishes to expand their food and beverage sales beyond existing city leases to contact Margie Woodring at City Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org, with a detailed request proposal. Although we are not certain of the governor's timing to announce Phase 2, the sooner we get our space-use plan together the better. Even if your plan to move outside is on your own property, we encourage you to make contact so we can anticipate any issues you may encounter upon reopening."
In a Times-News interview Friday afternoon, Morriss said, "We are going to be following Gov. Hogan's guidelines. We are making preparations so when (Phase 2) goes into effect, our stores, shops and restaurants will be ready to go and the paperwork is done. It's about preparedness so they can go right on forward as quickly as possible. Of course they will have to bring the inventory up. It's letting people know they are opening in as safe a manner as possible so everyone feels comfortable."
The city is also planning livestream webinars on Facebook at "Cumberland City Hall Live Stream," to help businesses with the details contained in the governor's Phase 2 plan.
Morriss said in the release that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a "huge reset button for businesses" and the city wants to offer a safe and organized reopening.
Franchot said in a public meeting on Wednesday the state should “move as quickly as possible” to allow restaurants to set up outdoor seating to allow customers to dine at their establishments. Franchot said restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic. The Restaurant Association of Maryland projects one in four restaurants may close permanently because of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Allegany County issued its "Roadmap to Reopening." Also following the state plan, the county's roadmap focused on best practices for participating in the recovery phases. They include sanitization, appropriate signage, customer flow, masks and personal protective equipment and placement of plexiglass guards to separate staff and customers.
“It it not the legal requirements, but these are things you can do to keep business and staff safe,” said Shade.
In the Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery, the economy is being reopened in three phases. Phases are to be announced in two to three weeks based on a downward trajectory of medically approved benchmarks in the level of coronavirus found in the state.
Phase 1, along with the lifting of the stay-at-home order, was implemented on May 15. Phase 2, which is expected to endure longer, will allow medium-risk activities to resume, such as the reopening of restaurants and bars with restrictions. More businesses will open and non-essential workers who can’t telework could return to work. Regular public transportation schedules could resume.
Under stage three, higher-risk activities could be resumed. Larger social gatherings, events, religious gatherings and activities at entertainment venues could commence. Restrictions on visits at hospitals and nursing homes could begin to be lifted.
City business owners are urged to follow choosecumberland.org to stay informed on the latest developments.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.