The Capitol Hill-based group behind iconic dive Hawk ‘n’ Dove, Irish bar Finn McCool’s, and Ophelia’s Fish House backed down from a vow to flout the health department’s operating restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a warning Monday on Twitter to “exercise the full force” of its emergency response and regulatory agencies.
Hill Restaurant Group managing partner Tom Johnson tells the Washington Post that the company will close four of its seven businesses and lay off employees and will be forced to lay off employees.
“I have to start letting people go. I don’t have the wherewithal to pay them,” Johnson tells the Post. “It’s literally going to put me out of business. I’m going to go bankrupt.”
A Facebook account for Hill Restaurant Group had posted on the private District Industry group Sunday night that it would “continue to operate as normal” and would “not bow down to pressure from the Mayor’s Office or any group for that matter who covertly is attempting to shut us down.”
That message came shortly after Bowser shut down nightclubs, eliminated bar seating, and mandated 6 feet of spacing between all tables. Washingtonian food editor Jessica Sidman shared a screenshot of the Hill Restaurant Group’s statement in a tweet that’s been shared more than 250 times.
In her response this morning, the mayor mentioned using the police department, the fire department, the liquor authority, and the health department to get Hill Restaurant Group to comply.
Hill Restaurant Group —— Muriel Bowser (@MurielBowser) March 16, 2020
While I recognize that all of us have been stressed beyond our immediate understanding of how coronavirus has so quickly upended our daily lives and personal and business existence — you must comply with the DC Health notice.
...and the emergency authority to achieve it.— Muriel Bowser (@MurielBowser) March 16, 2020
Meanwhile, I hope your patrons will encourage you to modify your operations at the soonest, to consider grab & go and delivery options in your food serving establishments...
Not everyone is following @MayorBowser's restrictions on restaurants and bars. Hill Restaurant Group owns Hawk 'n' Dove, Lola's, Willie's Sports bar, among other establishments. From the District Industry Facebook group: pic.twitter.com/yJQg26wxOz— Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) March 16, 2020
Eater D.C. reached out to Hill Restaurant Group, but a staff member said Johnson was unavailable to comment. The staffer said they didn’t know who posted the Facebook message and hung up the phone in response to questions about whether the group planned to disobey the city’s policies. Eater D.C. also reached out to the mayor’s office for more information on how it would enforce its policies.
The guidelines the city issued Sunday night have led to a flurry of local bars and restaurants temporarily shutting down or pivoting to takeout and delivery only as “social distancing” goes into effect across the District.