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U Street Taco Bar El Rey Closes After an Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19

The affected employee was last working on Wednesday, April 29

El Rey paused takeout on Wednesday, May 6.
R. Lopez/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

El Rey, the popular taco and tequila bar built inside shipping containers on U Street NW, is closed until further notice because a kitchen staffer has tested positive for COVID-19. The bar announced on social media today that it learned of the development last night.

Yesterday, El Rey (919 U Street NW) was busy meeting Cinco de Mayo demand that led many takeout customers across the city to ignore social distancing protocols in place to protect them from the coronavirus. The bar was sending out liter margarita-and-shot specials, hosting a DJ for a live stream, and telling Twitter followers to “just show up and order up!” if phones were busy.

An El Rey spokesperson tells a local CBS affiliate the employee’s last day inside the restaurant was Wednesday, April 29. The staff member worked exclusively in the kitchen, and the job does not involve interaction with guests. The worker is already beginning to feel better, adds the spokesperson.

Nearby sibling bar Echo Park is also closed, because some staff members work at both businesses.

After D.C.’s dine-in ban went into effect in mid-March, El Rey pivoted to takeout without pause via its existing to-go window.

In late April, the bar extended takeout hours to 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursdays and noon to 8 p.m. on Fridays to Sundays. Along with nachos, enchiladas, tamales, and taco hits, to-go offerings included Mexican and South American beers, wine, liters of margaritas and sangrias, and strong pouched cocktails.

Nearby in Dupont, homegrown grocer Glen’s Garden Market announced in an email yesterday that two of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. The infected employees “work closely with each other, but they have minimal contact with the rest of the team and no contact with the public,” per the email. The rest of the team was immediately tested, and results were negative.

The boutique market plans to keep operating, enforcing its five-person capacity limit and face-covering requirement, as well as continuing to perform “ultra-deep” cleanings daily from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Old Town’s Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub also temporarily closed in March after someone who frequented the bar the week before St. Patrick’s Day tested positive for COVID-19. Arlington’s craft beer bar Meridian Pint did the same in April, after learning an employee contracted COVID-19. Both establishments have since reopened.

Nationally recognized Italian restaurant and market Centrolina reopens this week in CityCenter after closing in late April because a team member was experiencing complications related to COVID-19.

Update: Thursday, May 7, 9:25 a.m. This post has been updated to reflect that Echo Park is also temporarily closed

El Rey

4201 Wilson Boulevard, , VA 22203 (571) 312-5530 Visit Website