clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

D.C. Farmers Markets Ordered to Close Until They Get Social Distancing Plans Approved

Local produce and fish markets have to obtain waivers to reopen

WIC Program Participants Use Their State Issued Vouchers At Farmers Markets In Washington DC
A scene from a Ward 8 Farmers Market in 2012
Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser shut down the city’s farmers markets Wednesday night, issuing an order that they must close until they can prove they have a social distancing plan ready to implement while reported cases of COVID-19 continue to climb.

To reopen, farmers markets have to submit their plans to the D.C. Food Policy Council, which will then grant waivers. Bowser instructs markets in an announcement to email the office and “outline how they will operate and enforce social distancing protocols.” Earlier this week, Bowser gave a similar mandate to seafood sellers after disconcerting images spread of a packed crowd at the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market on Saturday. The order will be enforced through at least April 24.

Plans must include:

  • Limiting the amount of people allowed inside markets
  • Prohibiting pets
  • Providing bagged items for grab-and-go service
  • Creating preordering systems over the phone or online
  • Limiting items for sale to food, cleaning products, and non-medical cloth masks
  • Roping off tables of products so customers can’t touch them before buying
  • Removing all on-site food preparation

A recently published map from Curbed lists 27 farmers’ markets across all four quadrants of the District. Local nonprofit Freshfarm runs nearly 30 across the area, 15 inside the city limits. Social media commenters have commended the nonprofit for changes it had already implemented at its Dupont Circle market, which regularly teems with customers rubbing elbows on a stretch of 20th Street NW.

Eater has reached out to the Food Policy Council to see if any waivers have been granted.

The order, shared by Washington City Paper, also mandates that all food sellers ranging from supermarkets to food banks and corner stores must implement safety and social distancing protocols. That includes posting signage instructing customers to maintain 6 feet of distance between each other, outline one-way paths in aisles, provide sanitizer stations, disinfect carts and baskets every hour, and — for stores that expect more than 50 customers per day — install plexiglass dividers in checkout aisles by Monday, April 20.

The city’s building and health departments will be conducting inspections, according to the orders.

A list of policy amendments is buried at the bottom of the order that the city no longer allows tennis and golf as recreational activities.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater DC newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world