Tighter COVID restrictions don’t faze MoCo restaurants, synagogues

Image of the pathogen responsible for COVID-19. Source: CDC.

Restaurants and synagogues in Montgomery County don’t see additional difficulties caused by the Montgomery County Council’s decision to reinstate restrictions to help limit the spread of COVID.

Rules that were loosened on Sept. 20 were tightened again on Nov. 10. Capacity limits for indoor restaurants, fitness centers, retail businesses and religious facilities in the county have been halved, from 50 percent to 25 percent.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) recently increased restrictions across the state, ordering all restaurants to reduce dining capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent.

Sachy Cohen, manager of Ben Yehuda Cafe & Pizzeria in Silver Spring, doesn’t expect the new rules to affect the business’ bottom line. Before the pandemic, most of the kosher restaurant’s customers picked up food or used the catering service.


A few weeks ago, the restaurant experimented with reopening its indoor dining room. Cohen said they reclosed it last week because it attracted few customers.

“We’ve settled into the new normal of our staffing,” Cohen said. “And we’ve been able to budget accordingly to make sure that as long as things stay the way they currently are, we’re good to go.”

Unlike Cohen, Ami Schreiber does expect the new rules to affect his business. Schreiber, the owner of Holy Chow! in Silver Spring, said the new limits on indoor dining won’t affect him because his business is mainly take out plus some outdoor seating. He worries that his catering business may take a hit because the size of allowed public gatherings has been reduced from 50 people to 25.

Schreiber said “this is supposed to be the biggest time of year” for catering due to Thanksgiving dinners, office holiday parties and Chanukah get-togethers. The new rules put many of these gatherings into question.

“It really started to feel normal. And now, here we are again. Back to square one,” Schreiber said.

While the new rules will affect religious facilities, those contacted for this story say they’ll unaffected due to self-imposed restrictions already in place. Kemp Mill Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation in Silver Spring, is already operating at less than 25 percent capacity, according to Executive Director Aryeh Shudofsky.

The same can be said of Kehilat Pardes – The Rock Creek Synagogue, according to its administrative assistant, Lily Landau. Magen David Sephardic Congregation​ in Rockville also won’t be affected, according to board member Debbie Shemony, due to most of its in-person gatherings consisting of less than 40 people while the sanctuary has a capacity for 400.

Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, in Rockville, doesn’t expect these changes to affect its operations, according to Treva Bustow, chief marketing and operations officer. Its Weinberg Health & Fitness Center​ already operates at a limited capacity and no gatherings are planned at the center at this time, she said.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced new COVID-19 restrictions effective Nov. 16. The limit on public and private social gatherings was scaled back from 250 to 25 people. Restaurants and bars now have to close by midnight with the sale of alcohol prohibited after 10 p.m. And the age of required face mask wearing went from age 10 to 5.

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