New Protocols at Eastern Market

Fresh Food Merchants Move Quickly to Comply with Mayoral Order

A farmer is pictured on the Eastern Market Farmer's Line. Photo: A. Lightman

As of Thursday, April 9, shoppers at Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE) are expected to wear masks and shop alone, rather than in groups. The farmer’s markets are postponed until a waiver is obtained, said one source.

The market has implemented the changes to comply with the Mayor’s order, issued late Wednesday evening which provides new guidance for employees of food sellers and customers.

It also strikes farmer’s markets from the list of essential businesses, compelling them to apply for a waiver to re-open.

As such, the farmer’s market at Eastern Market is not expected to open this weekend, although sources said a waiver was being sought. At Thursday’s Mayoral press conference, Director of the Office of Planning Andrew Trueblood said that smaller, less complex operations that can ‘pivot models’ to grab-and-go, delivery or driver walk-thru will be ‘easy to approve’ this weekend.

Update: as of Saturday morning, the farmers market had not yet received a waiver. Compost collection has also been temporarily suspended.

With the farmer’s market closed for the foreseeable future, you can offer support by looking into options offered by each farmer. The names and contacts for the Eastern Market farmer’s market are listed on the Eastern Market website.

A shopper purchases groceries at Canales Quality Meats Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Swift Compliance

The order requires food sellers –including grocery stores, convenience stores and food halls such as the fresh food merchants in Eastern Market’s South Hall– to post signs asking customers to wear masks, shop alone and avoid unnecessary contact. At her Thursday morning press conference, Mayor Muriel Bowser said that food sellers were expected to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Eastern Market appears to have acted quickly to fall in line with the order. On Thursday morning, most of the doors to Eastern Market were barred for entry, except the handicap-accessible entryway near the north end of the South Hall, which enters near the Market Lunch.

Signage was posted at Eastern Market Thursday.

Related: How to Make a No-Sew Face Mask

A market employee was posted at the entry door, ensuring customers were wearing masks and counting the number admitted, keeping shoppers at less than a dozen at any single time. Entry was directed one way to the north, with an exit possible near the north end of the market.

Market merchants had taken steps to ensure safety, with all employees wearing masks and gloves. The order also recommends that food sellers provide gloves and masks to employees that may come into contact with customers. Tape lines marked intervals of 6 feet near vendor stalls, and barricades were placed near food instructing customers not to touch items. Signage gave protocol for shoppers, and encouraged shoppers to maintain social distance.

One option to decrease social contact is telephone delivery. Shoppers can contact the vendors to place an order either before heading over, or while waiting outside the market and then come inside to collect it. This will cut down on both the number of customers inside the market, and the duration of each visit.

You can find contact numbers for South Hall merchants below and posted to doors and posts outside the market. Please note that Canales Deli has decided to close until April 15.

Get more information and news about Eastern Market by visiting