County press release incorrectly says Rockville hookah lounge was shut down for not complying
Lounge actually has stayed open for retail, to-go sales
Vibes Hookah Lounge in Rockville
Photo from Google maps
The owner of a Rockville hookah lounge said he was upset that Montgomery County officials wrongly announced that inspectors shut his business down for not following regulations.
The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services included Vibes Hookah Lounge in a press release on Monday about businesses that were not complying with county requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Actually, the business is still open for retail and to-go sales.
Owner Ahmed Kamel told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that his business should not have been grouped with businesses that were not following best practices throughout the health crisis.
“It’s very disheartening and upsetting because we follow the same guidelines as the CDC,” he said. “For us to be grouped with those other businesses, and that was very upsetting.”
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release on Monday with the error. As of Wednesday morning, the press release still contained the error.
Asked in an email about any inaccuracies in the press release, DHSS spokeswoman Mary Anderson wrote that Vibes was not closed, but was given a $500 citation.
However, Kamel said he was never fined by the inspector.
“He never left me a fine. He never gave me any type of paperwork,” Kamel said.
Anderson did not respond on Tuesday evening to a phone message seeking further clarification.
Last week, a health inspector visited Vibes, at 1 Dawson Ave. Kamel said the inspector told the business that people couldn’t smoke hookah there. But the business was allowed to stay open for retail and to-go sales.
The DHHS press release on Monday listed businesses that had been shut down due to not complying with COVID-19 restrictions. The other businesses were Cabana Hookah Lounge and The Palisades Lounge, both in Silver Spring.
The press release also mentioned a warning given to The Grille at Flower Hill in Gaithersburg in response to a complaint about workers there not wearing masks. The restaurant had received the complaint on June 29 and inspectors visited the restaurant on July 2, where they warned restaurant staff that they were not complying with the mask requirement.
Following the inspection, the restaurant posted on its Facebook page that employees would not be required to wear masks, despite the requirement to do so at the state and county level.
Inspectors plan to visit the restaurant again on Thursday.
A representative of Cabana Hookah Lounge confirmed to Bethesda Beat that it had been shut down, as mentioned in the county press release.
No one from The Palisades Lounge could be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org