Montgomery County inspects businesses ahead of phase 2 reopening

Montgomery County officially enters phase two of reopening Friday night. That means restaurants will be able to offer limited indoor dining for the first time in a long time, and Thursday, county employees wanted to make sure those businesses were ready.

“Just wanted to stop in and see how you were doing,” David Johnson said over and over again as he went door-to-door at Bethesda restaurants around 5 pm.

Johnson is normally a county housing inspector, but because COVID-19 has temporarily canceled his usual gig, he’s now moonlighting as one of 19 Reopening Ambassadors instead. They’ve crisscrossed the county, visiting more than 1,000 restaurants since June 8.

“Our primary goal here is not enforcement,” Johnson explained. “Our primary goal here is education and to meet with business owners. If we identify issues within the business, we work with them to correct those problems.”

That means that among other things they’re making sure employees and customers are wearing masks, that there’s signage posted, and that everybody is staying socially distant. Ambassadors like Johnson are also answering plenty of questions about phase two.

“It helps business owners but it also helps us because we can identify best practices within the county and then share that information with other business owners so it’s more successful overall throughout the county,” Johnson said.

So far, so good at restaurants like Mon Ami Gabi, where General Manager Adam Murphy told Johnson, “our first priority is obviously safety. Second priority and part of that first one is just to make sure that everyone feels comfortable.”

Just like with the other Bethesda restaurants he visited Thursday, Johnson said Mon Ami Gabi was ready to go.

“So far it’s been a great success,” he told Murphy, who was putting the finishing touches on his restaurant ahead of phase two, with less than 24 hours to go.