Restaurant owners say 2 a.m. closing time not making much of a difference

OCEAN CITY, Md. – It’s been over two weeks since restaurants were given the go ahead to stay open past ten p.m. in Maryland. It sounds like great news for them, but some restaurant owners tell 47 ABC it’s actually not making much of a difference.

“For us, the going from ten o’clock to two o’clock is not really any more of a gift than going from 50 to 75 percent,” John Fager, the owner of Fager’s Island, said.

Back on the first of February, restaurants and bars in Maryland got that green light from Governor Larry Hogan to stay open until 2 a.m. after previously having to close by 10 p.m. Some restaurant owners say it does give restaurants more freedom.

“What that really does it, it gives the businesses the liberty if they want to stay open here, that’s the good thing about it,” Phil Houck, the owner of Bull on the Beach, said.

Fager, though, says in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t really help his restaurant all that much because so many other restrictions are still in place.

“From 10 to 2, people want to mingle, they want to dance, they want to listen to a band, they want to have a DJ and want to have things be sort of normal, which they really aren’t,” Fager said.

Susan Jones with the Ocean City Hotel Motel Restaurant Association says businesses haven’t reported a huge surge in sales since the change in the rule. She says that may be partly because people don’t even know what time restaurants are open until.

“A few people that I’ve talked to, consumer wise, were not even aware that we were able to be open past 10 o’clock because we’ve operating at the 10 o’clock closure for so long, that’s sort of been engrained in people’s heads,” she said.

Houck says longer hours require more staff, and that’s something he’s struggling to find right now as he says many people aren’t looking for jobs at the moment. But, Houck says no matter what the hours of operation are, supporting local business is just as important now as it was in the beginning the of the pandemic.

“You have to, I mean, local businesses… if it wasn’t for local business, what else would you do?” he said.

Both Houck and Fager tell us they’re now looking ahead to the summer season and figuring out what they can do now to make it a successful one. Jones says to help with the issue of people not knowing closing times, restaurants should utilize social media and share their hours of operation on there.

Categories: Local News, Maryland