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D.C. Restaurants Can’t Reopen Dining Rooms Until At Least Mid-May

The mayor has extended the city’s emergency coronavirus measures by 3 weeks

WASHINGTON CORONAVIRUS
A woman picks up her takeout order from Call Your Mother’s new Capitol Hill location
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday extended the city’s state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus pandemic through Friday, May 15. That means “stay-at-home” orders for residents, the closure of nonessential businesses, and restrictions limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery will remain at least three weeks longer than previously announced.

The mayor also amended her previous order by mandating that face masks are required for all employees and customers in grocery stores and markets, taxis and rideshares, and hotels.

In an interview Tuesday, Bowser said she’s hopeful that COVID-19 infections could peak as early as next month. The city was previously following a worst-case projection that forecasted stress on hospitals to top out in July.

Last week, Bowser temporarily closed farmers markets and seafood markets, saying the city’s Food Policy Council would have to approve social distancing plans submitted by markets and vendors for them to reopen. Several have already received waivers.

Bowser first put a “stay-at-home” order into effect on March 30. At the time, the city’s state of emergency was set to expire April 25. A dine-in ban has been in effect since March 16.

Restaurant workers have been among the hardest hit by the public health crisis. Most eating and drinking establishments have been pushed into widespread layoffs and difficult decisions between staying open or potentially exposing employees to the virus.

From March 13 through Tuesday, D.C. had received 64,524 unemployment claims. As of Wednesday, the District claimed 73 COVID-related deaths, and more than 2,200 cases.

A pair of emergency relief bills that passed through the City Council have frozen rent and established micro-grants for restaurants, but excluded funds for vulnerable undocumented workers that are ineligible for unemployment benefits. A fund started by the city’s tourism, events, and sports authority promises to distribute $15 million in equal segments to restaurants, hotels, and the undocumented population.

Limited business conditions have led several local restaurants to pivot to more casual fare, embrace alcohol delivery, and launch pop-ups. This week, wood-fired bagel destination Call Your Mother went ahead with opening its second location, in Capitol Hill.

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