Metro has been closing early on weekends as part of the Safe Track plan since May, causing a headache for restaurants and bars open late. Now Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has put forth a proposal to permanently end late-night service. He proposes closing at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, instead of at 3 a.m. and closing at 10 p.m. on Sundays to give work crews enough time to make repairs.
Eater asked a bar manager, a restaurant owner, and the head of the city's restaurant association to weigh in on how the closures are already changing business and how the proposal would affect them permanently. Not only is a drop in customers a concern, but it would also reduce transportation options for restaurant and bar employees, they said. Here are their thoughts:
Brian Nixon, general manager McClellan's Retreat
"I've noticed a significant drop off in business on Friday and Saturday late nights since the metro began shutting down early on the weekends," Nixon told Eater. "It's really odd to be completely full at 11:45 [p.m.] and empty at 12:30 [a.m.]. Before the shutdown we would stay full for another two hours, which may not seem like a lot but for a small neighborhood bar that can make all the difference."
Gus DiMillo, co-proprietor at Passion Food Hospitality
"An end to late-night metro service on the weekends would affect our employees returning home more than our guests, as our restaurants close well before or around the midnight hour," DiMillo said. "The safety of our employees is a considerable worry for us, and the economical consequences are facts to be considered."
Kathy E. Hollinger, President and CEO of Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW)
"Everyone recognizes the utmost importance of maintaining a safe, functioning Metrorail for area residents and commuters," Hollinger said in a statement sent via email. "However, the restaurant community is concerned that permanently limiting hours of operation will negatively impact guests, as well as hardworking staff, who tend to commute to and from work at non-typical hours," she said.
"We have heard from member restaurants that sales are down as much as 20 percent due to early metro closures and the current SafeTrack schedule. The impact of the Metrorail’s schedule on restaurants and small businesses cannot be ignored and we welcome the opportunity to be included in the upcoming discussions to share the true effect of this decision."