For Montgomery County restaurateurs, 2020 was a crushing year.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants across Maryland to close for indoor dining on March 16. A temporary respite came over the summer, when Montgomery County allowed restaurants to reopen at 50% indoor capacity.
But a second wave of cases and deaths that started in the fall and worsened as the weather got colder prompted county officials to reinstitute an indoor dining ban earlier this month. The recent shutdown order prompted a lawsuit from dozens of county restaurants.
Despite a series of grants from the county, the state and the federal government, restaurant owners have pleaded for more financial assistance in the absence of revenue from indoor dining.
Many restaurants have been forced to close, and a survey from the Restaurant Association of Maryland estimates that another 800-plus restaurants in the county could close next year.
Here is a look at 20 restaurants that closed this year, more than half of which specifically cited the pandemic as a factor:
- In early March, before the pandemic, Gordon Biersch closed in Rockville Town Square when its parent company, CraftWorks Holdings, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The restaurant was one of many to close in Rockville Town Square this year. However, Gyuzo Japanese BBQ opened in Town Square last month and the arrival of HalfSmoke and Plaza Oaxaca are planned for early next year.
- Café Deluxe closed in downtown Bethesda as the pandemic was beginning in March. Owner Geoff Tracy said he hadn’t planned to renew the lease, but he closed sooner than planned due to a drop in sales from concerns about the virus.
- Urban Bar-B-Que closed its original Rockville location in late March after 17 years, but did not give a reason.
- P.F. Chang’s closed its last Montgomery County location in Chevy Chase in May. The restaurant initially closed temporarily in March due to the pandemic; it later became permanent.
- George’s Chophouse owner Ashish Alfred decided in May to close the Bethesda restaurant. Alfred said the loss of business from private events in The Loft due to the pandemic was the final straw.
- La Tasca closed in Rockville Town Square in May after the pandemic forced its parent company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Thai Pavilion closed after 13 years in Rockville Town Square at the end of May. Owner Thomas Ukrit said he couldn’t continue to stay open during the pandemic.
- The British pub Union Jack’s closed its last Montgomery County location in Gaithersburg in June, but didn’t give a reason for the closure.
- In early July, Not Your Average Joe’s closed its downtown Silver Spring location. No reason was given for the closure.
- The owner of The Grille at Flower Hill in Gaithersburg decided to close his restaurant in July after controversy erupted on social media over his decision to let workers not wear masks.
- Addie’s closure in Park Potomac became permanent over the summer. It closed temporarily at the start of the pandemic.
- The Bethesda French restaurant Le Vieux Logis closed in July, more than a year after owner Christian Gautrois listed the business for sale online.
- The Kensington bakery JennyCakes closed in mid-September. Owner Jenny Smith said the pandemic exacerbated what were already-tight profit margins. She said at the time that she plans to maintain a business out of her home.
- Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle in Bethesda, a mainstay for 35 years, closed in September after the business couldn’t afford to pay its rent due to a loss of events from the pandemic.
- Sergio Ristorante Italiano owner Sergio Toni said in September that he decided not to reopen the Silver Spring restaurant after closing in March due to the pandemic.
- Celebrity chef José Andrés announced in October that he was would not reopen Jaleo in Bethesda Row and is transforming the space into Spanish Diner — another of his concepts that he started in New York.
- Bethesda’s Prima, a fast-casual concept by area restaurateur Michael Schlow, closed temporarily in April due to the pandemic and never reopened. The space will soon be replaced by Chiko, a fast-casual Chinese-Korean restaurant based in D.C.
- Gusto Farm to Street closed its downtown Bethesda location in October due to financial problems caused by the pandemic.
- Downtown Bethesda seafood restaurant PassionFish closed in mid-November after five years. The restaurant was struggling to pay its rent due to economic challenges stemming from the pandemic, business partner David Wizenberg said.
- Mrs. K’s Tollhouse Restaurant, a 90-year-old restaurant in Silver Spring, announced in early December that the restaurant is on the market.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com