Caddie’s on Cordell in Bethesda fined $500 for having live music

UPDATED: Caddie’s on Cordell in Bethesda fined $500 due to musician playing acoustic guitar

Owner says county told him it might attract large crowds

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Logo from Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Twitter page

The Bethesda restaurant and bar Caddie’s on Cordell was fined $500 over the weekend because of a man playing acoustic guitar, according to its owner.

Both Montgomery County’s and Maryland’s executive orders do not allow live performances in public.

Caddie’s owner Ronnie Heckman told Bethesda Beat on Monday night that since restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity in June, he has allowed someone to play guitar while sitting at a barstool on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“It’s literally just one person sitting there with his acoustic guitar and a microphone,” he said.

Heckman said the music isn’t meant to draw large crowds — it’s for customers to relax after a stressful week. He said other people sitting at tables in Bethesda’s Streetery on Cordell Avenue also enjoy the music.

“It’s acoustic, man. He’s playin’ Jimmy Buffett beach-type vibes. It’s not like you’re encouraging people to get up and dance. It’s just something to do on an 80-degree afternoon when everyone’s been dealing with trials and tribulations for the last six to eight months,” he said.

Heckman said a health inspector came to the restaurant on Saturday and issued the fine. Afterward, he called Kenny Welch, the county’s environmental health services manager, and spoke with him for a half hour to get an explanation of the rules.

“He explained to me that these acoustic performers could have followers and that they [the county] don’t want to be attracting crowds to the restaurant,” Heckman said.

“It wasn’t testy at all. It was understanding. I said, ‘OK, I get it. Rules are rules. I understand that.’ He said that’s just the way it is right now.”

Heckman said that before Saturday’s inspection, county inspectors visited his restaurant multiple times and always gave high marks for the safety precautions for the COVID-19 crisis.

“With taking temperatures at the door of every customer who comes in to having two or three security guards on at all times to ensure social distancing and mask wearing. It’s the absolute most important thing we focus on as a business,” he said.

Heckman said he spoke with an elected official, a member of the county’s liquor department and a member of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce before Saturday, and they all told him someone playing acoustic music was acceptable. He declined to name the three people because he hadn’t checked with them about having their names published.

“I never would have thought that [acoustic guitar] would have been considered a ‘live performance,’” he said. “We do live music on a regular basis when we’re open at full [capacity]. We have a stage with lights. It looks like a mini concert in there. To me, that’s live music.”

Caddie’s was one of three restaurants fined on Saturday for violating various orders implemented during the COVID-19 health crisis, Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat.

Anderson wrote that two restaurants in Wheaton were also fined $500 on Saturday:

  • El Puente de Oro at 11123 Viers Mill Road, for not maintaining social distancing
  • Intipuqueno Restaurant at 2504 Ennalls Ave., for allowing karaoke to take place

Anderson wrote that the three restaurants cited on Saturday were among 10 businesses that the county inspected. The others were reminded of the county’s new rule that alcohol cannot be sold after 10 p.m., she wrote.

County inspectors have fined and shut down a number of businesses during the past month due to not complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

One business, Lancaster County Meats in Germantown’s Lancaster County Dutch Market, has had its license reinstated after it was suspended last month due to employees not wearing face masks.

Raymond Beiler, who helps run the Dutch Market, told Bethesda Beat that the meat vendor had its license reinstated about a week after being cited by the county. The vendor has been open since then when the market is operating, which is on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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