Montgomery County officials announced Tuesday that they shut down two Silver Spring, Maryland, restaurants after inspections found they weren’t complying with COVID-19 restrictions.
Society Lounge was closed Sunday and had its liquor license suspended after officials determined the eatery wasn’t “maintaining adequate social distancing,” according to a news release. It won’t be allowed to reopen until a written plan to meet the restrictions is submitted and approved by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The Republic Garden was also shuttered and had its license suspended Sunday after being cited for the same failure to enforce social distancing. It also needs to submit a written plan to the Department of Health and Human Services to reopen, according to officials.
In addition, Ay! Jalisco in Gaithersburg was given a citation for employees not wearing masks. Further violations will be met with a $500 citation and a liquor license suspension.
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And The Block in the Pike & Rose section of Rockville was slapped with a $500 citation for failing to maintain mandated 6-foot distancing after the county said it received multiple complaints. Additional violations could lead to a liquor license suspension.
The restaurant closures and citations come as Gov. Larry Hogan called for Maryland county leaders to ratchet up coronavirus restriction enforcement in bars and restaurants throughout the state.
He said officials are “closely monitoring some concerning trends, including increasing infection rates among young people. The positivity rate among Marylanders under the age of 35 is now 84% higher than Marylanders 35 and older.”
“An increasing number of COVID-19 cases have been connected to noncompliance with public health requirements, particularly in bars and restaurants. Businesses that fail to comply with the state’s orders put their customers and employees at grave risk, and jeopardize our safe, effective and gradual recovery,” Hogan wrote in his letter.
“The vast majority of bars and restaurants in our state are in compliance, but some are flagrantly violating the law and endangering public health. You have the responsibility to enforce these laws. Violators should be warned, fined, have actions taken regarding their licenses, or closed if necessary. Local health departments, local liquor boards and inspectors, and local law enforcement agencies must work together to ensure public health is protected.”
Tuesday also saw the Montgomery County Council introduce a resolution to increase COVID-19 testing and create a countywide strategy for free, no-appointment, no-referral, walk-up testing.
“Testing levels in Montgomery County continue to be inadequate and many residents have reported difficulty obtaining tests, lack of response when contacting the county to schedule tests, delayed turnaround in tests, lack of clarity about who should be tested and other problems,” the resolution reads.
“To prevent infections, avoid new stay-home orders and continue operating key services such as schools and child care, the county must aggressively conduct testing, tracing and isolating/quarantine operations, in addition to sustained use of facial coverings, distancing and shifting activity outdoors as much as possible.”
Before the resolution was unanimously introduced, Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Dr. Earl Stoddard noted that he does not see how parochial school students will be returning to school in August “full-fledged.”
“So, if there’s a parochial school out there planning to have five days of school, full classrooms in August, they should talk to us because that’s probably not going to happen,” Stoddard said.
Stoddard’s comments come as Montgomery County Public School parents, students and teachers raised concerns that a return to in-person teaching would put students and staff at risk of contracting the coronavirus, even if schools in the county follow CDC guidelines.
A public hearing on the council’s resolution is planned for July 21.