SILVER SPRING, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - As area counties crackdown on businesses not complying with COVID-19 restrictions, FOX 5 also learned Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich attended an event that is actually not allowed under state pandemic regulations.
Montgomery County is among the greater Washington D.C. area jurisdictions to increase enforcement around pandemic compliance as COVID-19 cases rise in the region.
On Monday, the County’s Department of Health and Human Services said since this past weekend, health inspectors have now closed one business for not complying and issued two more $500 citations.
The Republic Garden on the 8400 block of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring is the business that is now closed for 30 days. This business and two others along the same Georgia Ave. strip were briefly closed on July 12 for not maintaining adequate social distancing. They were allowed to reopen after submitting plans on how they would comply with COVID-19 safety requirements.
A county health official tells FOX 5 an inspector visited over the weekend and observed The Republic Garden not following their own safety guidelines.
At least one of the other business owners previously shut down was interviewed in a local outlet about Black business owners feeling targeted by the county’s pandemic enforcement.
A county health official tells FOX 5 enforcement is focused on entertainment areas and complaints.
FOX 5 also learned about a music regulation catching even county officials by surprise.
On Friday, July 24, a newer brewery in Olney called Lone Oak Farm Brewing received a health inspector visit after someone made a social distancing complaint. They apparently saw “too many” cars in the parking lot, according to the owners.
Lone Oak Farm was not fined or shut down, but the health inspector did end up stopping a live music performance. That’s because performing live music to an audience or spectators was prohibited by the Maryland state health department back on June 12.
Critics not associated with Lone Oak and not happy about what happened to the Olney business, also pointed out that on July 11, County Executive Marc Elrich shared in a post no longer seen on social media of him enjoying a live music performance at a Rockville brewery.
Lone Oak’s owners tell FOX 5 the music restriction does impact business, but they’re not frustrated with the county. They just wish there was more dialogue – especially as they work out another food licensing matter noted in the health inspector’s report.
“Being an alcohol production facility accessory use to a farm and a farm brewery, and even almost quote on quote a manufacturing facility for beer and we’re also working on a couple of other things with the Department of [Agriculture] regarding additional manufacturing, farm manufacturing, we’re trying to figure out where we fall in line with the county guidance because we fall under many of those pieces of parts. So just, just a little bit clearer guidance,” said co-owner Charlie Miller.
His brother and co-owner Chris Miller, told FOX 5, “I think this is a tough time for everybody, especially to operate a business. So we’re just doing the best we can and we’d just love an open dialogue, a conversation with the people who are creating these rules, drafting these rules.”
FOX 5 did reach out to the county executive’s office about the social media post no longer on Twitter. An official discussed some of the confusion around the state order that the county is responsible for enforcing.
FOX 5 was told in a statement:
“Montgomery County has been a leader in the region of enforcing compliance during the pandemic. After visiting Brookville Beer Farm, the County Executive reported they were playing live music. Since this was a violation of a Maryland Department of Health Order, the establishment was notified they could no longer have live performances. Since that date, we have continued to address this and other violations of local and state restrictions throughout the County. Our objective is to ensure that customers and businesses practice safety so we can minimize the spread of the virus.”
Back in Silver Spring, calls to the owner of The Republic Garden went unanswered on Monday.
The health department also noted these actions since last Friday:
· The Block, located at 967 Rose Avenue in the Pike & Rose section of North Bethesda, was issued a $500 civil citation for not maintaining the minimum, six-feet physical distancing and its license was suspended. Two weeks, ago they were issued a $500 civil citation for the same violation. A written plan detailing how requirements set forth in Executive Order 0820-20 will be met must be submitted to, and approved by, the Department of Health and Human Services before reopening.
· Responding to multiple complaints, on Friday, July 24 Lancaster County Meats, located within the Lancaster County Dutch Market at 12613 Wisteria Drive in Germantown, was issued a $500 civil citation and its license was suspended for failure to require employees to wear a face mask. A written plan detailing how requirements set forth in Executive Order 0820-20 will be met must be submitted to, and approved by, the Department of Health and Human Services before reopening.
The following five Hookah businesses were previously issued citations and cease and desist notices:
· Sam's Cafe/Sam's Hookah, 844 Rockville Pike, Rockville
· The Avenue Grill/The Avenue Hookah, 4924 Del Ray Ave., Bethesda
· Ogei's Cafe/AC Grill/Hookah Bar, 293 Muddy Branch Rd., Gaithersburg
· Shisha Lounge, 13063 Wisteria Dr., Germantown
· Horus Cafe & Grill/Horus Burn, 909 Gaither Rd., Gaithersburg
Palisades Lounge and Society Lounge in Silver Spring were allowed to reopen after submitting plans to the county’s health department on how they would adhere to social distancing requirements.