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DC Health Issues Tighter Restrictions on Restaurants, Bars

DC Health is asking restaurant to move tables further apart, stop serving people at the bar and not serve standing customers at all in a clarification of the prohibition on mass gatherings issued Friday, March 13.

UPDATE Monday, March 16: Reports circulated early afternoon Monday, March 16 that Mayor Muriel Bowser was about to issue an order calling on restaurants to shut down dining rooms and switch to take-out and delivery only. The Hill Rag has an updating list of Hill Restaurants offering delivery and takeout here.

Venues licensed as nightclubs and multi-purpose facilities have to shut down completely in order to ensure compliance. Many such license holders are not obviously nightclubs, including Southwest’s Arena Stage.

The statement is an attempt to clarifies the actions restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, and multi-purpose facilities must take to comply with the earlier order, which prohibits gatherings of more than 250 people. At that time, DOH recommended that banquet halls with a capacity of 250 or more be closed. The clarification may have been stimulated by reports of bustling nightlife over the weekend.

The updated statement asks  restaurants and taverns to comply by doing the following:

  • Ensure that no more two hundred and fifty (250) people are present in the space at the same time
  • Suspend the use of bar seating
  • Suspend service to standing patrons
  • Limit individual table seating to six (6) persons or less
  • Ensure that tables (including booths) that are occupied by patrons are separated by at least six (6) feet of distance

Many small restaurants and bars on the Hill see their seating significantly reduced with the restrictions during a time when fears about the spread of the virus have already impacted business.

Barred in DC reports that some bars and restaurants, including The Pug, Wisdom and All-Purpose Capitol Riverfront have already made the decision to close and switch to delivery-only. Jose Andres restaurants closed on Sunday as well.

A GoFundMe was established for the employees of Wisdom, and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) has established a Coronovirus Worker Relief Fund. You can donate here.

Barred in DC also reports that A Virtual Tip Jar —a list of Venmo accounts for local food service workers— is being compiled right now and will go live Monday. Clients can make contributions through Venmo to their favorite waiters, barkeeps and food service workers. The list will be updated daily at noon. Food service workers can add themselves online at googledocs.

Meanwhile, about 790 people have already signed a MoveOn.org petition calling on Mayor Bowser to close bars and restaurants and for the District Government to provide financial support to the businesses and their employees during the closure.

On Tuesday, the Council will convene to vote on emergency legislation to make immediate adjustments in response to the coronavirus emergency. That legislation will make funds available to workers affected by COVID-19 via quarantine or business closures through unemployment insurance and Family Leave Act.

It will also create grants for small business affected by closures, as well as clarifying government operations and terms of the public health emergency.

This is a developing story.

For more information on the District’s response, visit coronavirus.dc.gov.

Shout-Out to the Northeast Hill’s Barred in DC. Get updates on the wider District food service scene by following https://twitter.com/barredindc

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