Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Anne Arundel County judge denies restraining order in mask mandate challenge

Anne Arundel County’s indoor mask mandate will remain in place, at least for now, after a judge on Wednesday denied two local business owners’ request for a temporary restraining order against the COVID-19 safety measure.

“The court, at this stage of the proceeding, cannot find that the plaintiffs have met their burden to establish they will suffer immediate, substantial and irreparable harm,” Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Donna M. Schaeffer wrote in a one-page order.

The plaintiffs argued that the county’s health officer did not have the authority to issue a public safety order requiring masks indoors after the Anne Arundel County Council declined to extend the mandate earlier this month.

The business owners will have another chance to make their case in court next week at a preliminary injunction hearing, which is set for Tuesday.

That hearing will “provide the plaintiffs with the opportunity to demonstrate that the unilateral, unlawful and undemocratic action of the health officer continues to cause economic hardship to restaurants and bars in this county, and must be enjoined,” said their lawyer, Charles J. Muskin.

A spokesperson for the county could not immediately be reached for comment.

The plaintiffs are Pasquale Carannante, the owner of Bella Napoli Restaurant in Pasadena, and James Zimmerer, the owner of an Annapolis “fitness business,” according to the complaint. The two men claimed in the complaint that the indoor mask mandate hurt their businesses because customers do not wish to dine out or exercise while wearing masks.

They argued that the head of the county’s health department, Nilesh Kalyanaraman, did not have legal authority to extend the mask mandate past Jan. 7, when the Anne Arundel County Council failed to pass emergency ordinances that would have continued the mandate and the proclamation of a civil emergency amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.

County Executive Steuart Pittman Jr. had mandated masks through an executive order on Dec. 30, according to the complaint. That mandate was set to expire on Jan. 7, after the County Council’s refusal to extend the mandate, when Kalyanaraman issued a public safety order requiring masks.