The owner of the popular Rita’s Crepes kiosk on Bethesda Row has shut the location down.
Rita’s Crepes owner Rhita Douglass said a Montgomery County health inspector told her last Friday that the business was technically in violation of county regulations for mobile food vendors because it wasn’t mobile. Douglass said the business started as a food cart, then in late 2008 (at the invitation of property owner Federal Realty) began operating out of the stationary kiosk at the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues.
Douglass said the operation passed the food inspection. When asked why a county official would bring up the mobile cart regulations nearly six years after she opened the kiosk, Douglass seemed wary of placing blame on the county.
She said running the business as a mobile cart — with a trailer connected to a truck or other vehicle — just didn’t seem worth it.
“It really isn’t worth the hassle,” Douglass said. “With the lack of space in downtown, it’s a really hard job to keep up a mobile cart.”
Instead, Douglass will focus on Rita’s Crepes’ growing popularity at local farmers markets, including the Sunday Bethesda Central Farm Market and Saturday Pike Central Farm Market.
Her crepes have quite a following and regularly attract long lines at the Sunday market at Bethesda Elementary School.
Douglass said construction at Lot 31 near the kiosk brought business down slightly. But she also said she would still get lines of six or seven people, which sometimes meant a very crowded Woodmont Avenue sidewalk.
She left a two-page letter to customers taped to the front of the kiosk.
“We are bidding our farewell while leaving down town Bethesda with a sense of nostalgia as we have developed relationships with many of you,” Douglass wrote. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your visits and those memories spanning the past 6 years. For me personally, the crepes were a sacred medium to reach out to you and I loved every minute of it!”
Douglass wrote of a man who told her he was in the hospital in critical condition. She wrote that the man told her he was most motivated in his recovery so he could return to the Rita’s Crepes kiosk.
Rita’s Crepes participates in five weekly farmers markets around the area. Douglass said if a return to downtown Bethesda materializes, she’d prefer it be in the form of a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment.
Photo via Rita’s Crepes/Twitter