wine bottles

(March 19, 2021) Exactly one year ago to the day of this week’s Worcester County Commissioners meeting, covid-19 had business owners shaken, as they were ordered to shut their doors to paying customers.

Since then, restaurants and bars have been making changes on the fly in response to Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive orders issued on March 15, 2020.

During the whirlwind of tweaks to guidance concerning alcohol sales in 2020 and 2021, Worcester County met local businesses with tolerance.

In the first months of the pandemic, the county quickly granted emergency outdoor seating requests and allowed restaurants and bars to sell carryout cocktails with strong oversight but little interference.

After a new executive order from Hogan just last week allowing 100 percent occupancy in restaurants, local businesses are posting new signs, hiring security, and doing their best to enforce social distancing and mask wearing.

Spring has now arrived for hopeful Worcester County business owners, and so has liquor license renewal season.

Last week, Hogan issued an executive order extending all state license expiration dates that would have otherwise occurred during the current state of emergency. The Worcester County Board of Licensed Commissioners responded directly to Hogan’s order by issuing extending the local liquor license renewal deadline to June 1.

Last year, when Hogan issued an executive order to suspend alcoholic beverage licensing fees, Worcester County government took no action to suspend fees. To that end, businesses will still be required to pay all late fees and license renewal fees before 2021 and 2022 Worcester County alcoholic beverage licenses are granted.

Approximately $2.69 million in CARES Act grants have been distributed to local businesses since September 2020.

Of the restaurants and bars that received “Workforce Back to Business COVID-19 Assistance” grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, many owners put grant funds aside to cover the anticipated licensing and renewal fees.

So far, 87.4 percent of renewal applications for 2020 to 2021 have already been submitted and paid, leading Worcester County to remain confident that businesses can support alcoholic beverage licensing costs.

With tourists making vacation plans, the deadline extension to June 1 is welcome news for restaurants and bars that now have three busy spring months to gather renewal paperwork and funds.

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