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Maryland Is Sending Statewide Push Alerts So People Stay the Hell Home on Thanksgiving Eve

Governor Larry Hogan has ordered an emergency response to ensure revelers follow public health regulations

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan holds a press conference to address COVID-19 concerns, on November 17 in Annapolis, MD. Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Thanksgiving Eve will not be a bar-hopping holiday if Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has anything to do with it. Hogan is working on a full-court press to try to get bars and drinkers to follow COVID-19 protocols. That initiative includes deploying state troopers for compliance checks at bars and restaurants and sending a push notification to every Maryland resident’s phone urging them to stay home through the Thanksgiving holiday.

In Hogan’s news conference Monday, he acknowledged that the night before Thanksgiving is a popular time for folks to go out and get drinks with old friends.

“I cannot emphasize how reckless that behavior would be this year,” the governor said. In response, he is putting in place monitoring by police for bars and restaurants to enforce the state-mandated 10 p.m. closing times. These efforts will continue throughout the holidays, as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and throughout the country.

“State troopers will support local authorities with compliance checks, with a focus on educating the public about existing orders, protocols and priorities to prevent super-spreading events and to insist on enforcement compliance when actions are necessary,” Hogan said.

Last week, Hogan limited indoor seating capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent. Close to D.C., Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties ordered 25 percent indoor dining capacity, with MoCo also calling for a 10 p.m. last call for alcohol in restaurants.

Bar owners and managers in Maryland are reacting to the cutback of hours on a key holiday with a mix of frustration and understanding.

At Caddies On Cordell in Bethesda, owner Ronnie Heckman is hoping he’ll do half the business he did on Thanksgiving Eve last year.

“People just don’t want to come out anymore, whether it’s because of COVID or the restrictions,” he says. “It makes it hard, but we understand. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Terry Cullen, the general manager of Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, calls the Wednesday before Thanksgiving “the busiest night of the year.” He’s worried business will be down 70 percent for Thanksgiving Eve because of the restrictions hours and capacity.

Cullen says Tommy Joe’s has put measures in place from partitions over the bar to daily deep cleanings to bringing in extra staff to monitor customers’ mask usage — all expenses that cut into the bottom line, too.

“Our clientele knows that we are sticklers about it,” Cullen says. He thinks that the bars who can control their crowds are being punished by those who aren’t bothering to try to follow the guidelines.

“We are doing what we have to do plus more and we’ll have to get through it,” he says. “We want it to stay open, we just want it to go to midnight to have a chance.”

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