2022 | News

Silver Spring restaurateur speaks out after viral video shows visitor berating staff over mask mandate, making Holocaust comparison

Restaurant later received threatening phone calls, owner says

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The owner of a kosher Chinese restaurant in Silver Spring is speaking out after an incident, captured on viral video, in which a visitor vehemently refused to follow Montgomery County’s indoor mask mandate, berated the staff and compared the mandate to the Holocaust.

Another person with her filmed the outburst and sometimes chimed in, in agreement.

The incident took place Sunday night at Holy Chow in the Kemp Mill neighborhood of Silver Spring, which has a large Orthodox Jewish population. Two of the would-be customers featured in the video have been vocal online and elsewhere about opposition to vaccine and mask mandates. The video comes as Montgomery County officials consider whether to enact a vaccine mandate at restaurants and other sites and as officials have extended the mask mandate to Feb. 21.

In the video, nearly three minutes long, a female employee tells the female visitor that she can’t serve customers who aren’t wearing masks, due to the county’s mask mandate that has been in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m not trying to argue with you right now. … Because we have a mandate in the county,” the employee says.

The employee asks the woman to go outside and order, to which the customer — who is animated and abusive throughout the video — responds that the mask order is akin to examples of historical oppression.

“Segregation was legal. Jim Crow law was legal. The Holocaust was legal. … I’m irritated. I’m annoyed,” the woman says. “You’re telling me to stand in the cold like I’m not human.”

At one point in the video, a voice that appears to be of the person who is filming can be heard saying “this is a Jewish establishment. This is not kosher,” although it’s not clear whether that person is with the woman not wearing the mask.

The woman and the person filming eventually leave the restaurant together without buying any food.

Ami Schreiber, the owner of Holy Chow, told Bethesda Beat on Thursday that the confrontation with the people in the video happened during dinner service Sunday. He wasn’t in the restaurant at the time, but said the restaurant called him immediately after.

“It was very disruptive,” he said.

Schreiber said the incident never escalated beyond the argument seen in the video, and police weren’t called. He credited his employees for staying calm throughout the situation.

“There was shock initially. When I got there, everything had calmed down, and that’s when they realized that this was pretty messed up. Thankfully, we’ve never had something like that,” he said.

“I think we got really lucky and my staff handled it really well. But it could have gone in a completely different direction.”

It didn’t end there, Schreiber said. The same night, he received about a half dozen phone calls from out-of-state area codes, including some threatening to “f— you up.” Additionally, he said several people left poor reviews of the restaurant on Yelp that night.

Schreiber said he thinks the same people were behind each incident. Afterward, he said he discovered that the woman in the video is known as Jo Rose and that earlier in the day, she had attended an event on the National Mall in D.C., and photos were posted online.

A Facebook user using the account name “Curtis Orwell” posted photos of himself and the same woman in the Holy Chow video of them at the event on the mall, wearing badges with the messages “defeat the mandates.”

The Orwell account later posted the video of the Holy Chow incident and the message “getting discriminated against at a ‘kosher’ fast food restaurant in demonic Silver Spring, MD.”

In the comments section below the video, a user with the account name “Jo Rose” seems to identify herself as the woman arguing in the video.

“What is cruel is being told that I am the spreader of disease and being told to stay outside in the cold,” she wrote.

An Instagram account identified as “Jo Rose” also posted the video and indicted she was in it.

On those and other social media accounts, the video has been viewed tens of thousands of times.

Last month, Jo Rose appeared in a segment on Fox News about being arrested at an Applebee’s restaurant in New York City because she didn’t comply with a vaccination mandate for patrons.

Neither Rose nor the Orwell account responded to Facebook messages from Bethesda Beat on Thursday seeking comment.

Holy Chow’s Facebook account responded below the video, asking for it to be taken down.

“Your sole purpose was to stir up trouble and make a scene without any intention of purchasing goods or services,” the restaurant’s post said. “You harassed hard working employees who are just trying to do their jobs and frightened customers who were just trying to pick up their food.”

The restaurant’s post went on to rebuke the people in the video for comparing the mask mandate to the Holocaust.

“To just throw it around willy nilly and call anyone you don’t like a Nazi or trying to compare something you don’t agree with to the Holocaust cheapens the memory of the millions of people who were murdered,” it said.

Schreiber said the people in the video also went to other businesses nearby the same night. He said there’s been a strongly supportive response from the community, and one customer left a $36 tip as a token of appreciation.

“My staff is awesome, and I’m not sure I could have handled it as well. The outpouring of support from the community has been great,” he said.

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