The free pizza and bagels have ended, at least temporarily, for members of the five Montgomery County locations of Planet Fitness including the Germantown location, after the County’s health department put the kibosh on the free carb-load this week.
Planet Fitness notified members that Pizza Nights and Morning Bagels, which was a way for the gym which pushes a non-intimation, low-cost model catering to everyday folks and not hard-core fitness enthusiasts. The tradition began as a simple gesture of gratitude to members has become a fun way for members to meet, gather, and build community at all of their locations, according to Planet Fitness.
Yesterday, Planet Fitness members in Montgomery County received the following email:
“We have been notified by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services that our method of providing Bagel Mornings and Pizza Nights does not comply with its interpretation of State law. Due to this, we will have to temporarily suspend providing bagels and pizza in your club. As you may know, we have adhered to the same quality standards in our Montgomery County locations that are used throughout Maryland as well as in more than 1,800 Planet Fitness locations throughout North America.”
The reason for the change, according to Mary Anderson, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Health and Humans Services Division, is that Maryland State Law prohibits a business from offering a food item which is not individually wrapped without a special food license.
“The kind of food license that Planet Fitness has is considered a low-level license,” said Anderson, “one of the stipulations of that license is that they are only serving pre-packaged food, such as power bars.” She said that while the pizza and bagels are being produced elsewhere, it is not individually packaged. “Someone has to handle the pizza and bagels with a hand. Someone has to stick a hand in a box or bag to get the food, or somebody from the health club is serving them to members. In order to do that, a separate hand-washing sink is required.” She added that the sinks in the locker rooms are not sufficient to satisfy this requirement. “It must be a hand-washing sink that is only used for hand washing as it relates to food preparation,” said Anderson.
Anderson reiterated that Montgomery County is enforcing Maryland State Law, not a separate County statute. She added that because Planet Fitness is a licensed facility to sell pre-packaged food, provided food that is not pre-packaged is in violation of the license they hold. “Our inspectors are required to enforce the state law, and that law is clear. In reality, this would apply to every Planet Fitness in Maryland,” she said.
Anderson said that she is not aware of any complaints filed against Planet Fitness, or anyone becoming ill as a result of the Pizza Friday and Bagel Mondays at any Planet Fitness in Montgomery County.
In the letter to members, Planet Fitness said it was working with the County Health and Human Services Department to bring back the free bagels and pizza to locations. “We will continue to work with the County to satisfy its demands and hope to get you your Bagel Mornings and Pizza Nights back as soon as possible,” read the letter.