If you have ventured out around the Shore or across the Bridge over the holidays, you have seen the challenges faced by restaurants and how much money and effort many of them have put into outdoor dining spaces that abide by COVID social distancing rules.

The pandemic continues to take bites out of their business, including most recently with New Year’s Eve.

It was another big day of business for restaurants and bars (and tips for their workers) adversely impacted by the pandemic. Carryout and delivery orders only go so far.

Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday will be next up for the challenged industry.

The New Year will be a challenge for the restaurant industry and its workers on the Shore, as well as across the state and county.

While some other jurisdictions, such as Baltimore, have gone as far as to restrict outdoor dining, counties and towns on the Shore have rightfully resisted those moves. Baltimore’s restrictions on restaurants are costing jobs and shuttering businesses.

Gov. Larry Hogan has also rightfully not imposed more statewide restrictions on restaurants.

As 2021 starts, consumers need to make concerted efforts to support local restaurants and local shops. This is true in Easton, St. Michaels, Cambridge and other Mid-Shore towns. These businesses are essential to tax and employment bases as well as the character of places such as downtown Easton and Talbot Street in St. Michaels.

Many of our hometown restaurants are in survival mode, and as it gets colder some outdoor dining options will be challenged.

As town councils also get back into regular meetings after the holidays and the Maryland General Assembly gets ready for its 2021 session, we hope lawmakers have a strong focus on helping hometown businesses.

Easton’s curbside dining program helped Washington Street restaurants last year. We hope the town brings those efforts back and finds other creative ways to help local shops and eateries downtown.

At the state level, Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot has aggressively been advocating for small businesses. Hogan also earmarked state economic assistance for restaurants (including for social distancing and outdoor dining) and other small businesses.

Both deserve credit on these fronts.

We need to see those efforts carry over into 2021. We need a kitchen sink approach to helping small businesses, restaurants and their workers.

Towns, counties and Annapolis all need to take comprehensive looks at regulations, fees and taxes on restaurants and other small businesses.

Lawmakers need to look at temporary and more permanent ways to help ease the burdens on entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Maryland, Virginia, New York and other states were at the ready with big incentives and tax breaks for Amazon.com’s new headquarters project in 2017.

We need to see the same zeal, creativity and enthusiasm for helping local businesses (including restaurants) in 2021.

The challenges for small businesses are great as we start the new year. We need a robust community and comprehensive effort to help local businesses and restaurants that are so important to the Shore.

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