The owner of a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland, wrote a controversial post on social media telling customers that he will not require servers to wear face masks.
The since-deleted post on The Grille at Flower Hill's Facebook page read in part: "Let me be very clear…my staff will not wear face masks while working here at the Grille. If that bothers you then please dine elsewhere and please try to find something more important to occupy your time such as volunteer at a nursing home or soup kitchen."
The owner wrote the post in response to a customer's complaint to the Montgomery County Health Department that restaurant staff were not wearing masks and some customers were sitting too close.
"Whoever you are that filed the complaint, you need to take a good look in the mirror and try to find some real meaning in your life," the owner said in the post.
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In a phone interview with News4, the owner, who did not want to be identified, said he received death threats in response to his message.
He said he feels masks are bad for people’s health, and that they’re uncomfortable to wear.
He also said he gave his staff the option of wearing masks, but they all chose not to wear them.
Montgomery County requires people to wear face masks in public.
The county health department said it sent an inspector to The Grille at Flower Hill last Thursday and reminded the restaurant of the rules.
But the county says it has since received more complaints about servers still not wearing masks.
As of Monday, the restaurant is closed. County officials say they didn't force the owner to shut down.
The owner said he’s hoping to reopen on Thursday and told News4 he has no plans to change his stance on masks.
Some former customers told News4 they're going to eat elsewhere.
"Now that I know they aren’t going to wear masks, I don’t know that I trust to eat there -- even when everyone doesn’t have to wear masks anymore. If they just don’t care, " Susan Gunster said.
"It’s just as simple as everybody doing their part, and I would feel safer in going there. Now that everybody’s not, it’s like we’re right back at the beginning. So I’m just as inclined to stay home as I was then, even more now, seeing posts like that," Steven Schlee said.
The health department says it plans to send another inspector on Thursday.
Anyone who knowingly violates the mask order in Montgomery County is guilty of a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in prison, and/or a $5,000 fine.