I’ve been in business in Baltimore County for over 30 years. My partner, John Griffith, and I grew up locally, close to Monaghan’s, and attended Woodlawn High School. As a local tavern owner, I thought I’d seen it all, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been like nothing I have ever experienced. The effects on the hospitality industry have been devastating.
I recognize we all have a part to play in slowing the spread of the virus. I’ve done everything in my power to keep my employees and customers safe. But with indoor dining restrictions, limited capacity mandates, shortened business hours, and the constantly changing limitations placed on bars and restaurants over the past year, business at Monaghan’s Pub has slowed to a trickle.
Don’t get me wrong. Off-premise sales, and particularly takeout alcohol, have kept the doors open for now, but anyone in the restaurant industry knows that’s not sustainable. On-premise dining is a must in the hospitality industry. With just 20 percent of our business dedicated to off-premise sales, we need customers to dine-in to stay in business.
Beyond dining restrictions, Monaghan’s main customer base consists of office workers, a lot of whom worked at nearby federal buildings. With those folks working from home, many of our regulars just aren’t coming to the neighborhood anymore.
All in all, if we had an evening with one-third of our normal sales—which pre-COVID would have me hanging my head—that now would be considered a “good day” in my books.
The sad truth is the “good days” for Monaghan’s have been few and far between, and my story isn’t unique. Local bars and restaurants across Maryland are suffering, with many closing permanently. Gone with them are the jobs that they support. Higher taxes, like the proposed alcohol tax increase in Annapolis, would knock many more of us down for good.
We’re not ready to let that happen. This community means everything to us, which is why we’ve always prioritized giving back, whether it’s planting flower gardens around the neighborhood, conducting charity fundraisers, or replacing helmets for the Woodlawn High School lacrosse team.
When the pandemic hit, we redoubled our efforts and started “Monaghan’s Meals for Front Line Workers” to thank healthcare heroes for keeping us safe. Through this initiative, we provided lunches to essential workers at Medstar Health Urgent Care Call Center, first responders at local firehouses, ICU staff at Saint Agnes Healthcare, and many others.
This community is truly the reason we’ve made it as far as we have during these challenging times. In addition to their unwavering support, we need our lawmakers on our side too if we hope to recover.
It will be years before bars and restaurants are fully back on their feet. It could take even longer if the sales tax on alcohol goes up. Our chefs are top-notch and their food incredible, but that alone is not enough to get the bills paid. Over 40% of our profits come from drink sales. Alcohol sales have and will continue to play a crucial role in our business revenue that we’ve continued to lose so long as the virus rages on.
As lawmakers aim to fund new and important initiatives, they should look to common sense, broad-based solutions. What they shouldn’t do is target an industry that has been one of the hardest hit since the onset of the pandemic.
I love my community here in Baltimore. I love serving them, in and out of the pub. I want to continue doing so and all I ask is that our state lawmakers give us a fighting chance.