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Virginia’s First Phase of Reopening Will Limit Restaurants to Outdoor Seating Only

The governor’s plan calls for 50 percent capacity on patios, starting May 15

Buena Vida Social Club booths on the roof
The rooftop at Buena Vida Social Club in Clarendon
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Virginia restaurants are on track to reopen for full-service dining next week, but they’ll only be allowed to host customers for outside seating at half capacity.

On Friday, May 8, Gov. Ralph Northam announced more details for the first phase of the state’s reopening plan, which is set to begin Friday, May 15, as long as the state continues to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases.

Northam said the state’s “hot zones,” including Northern Virginia, could hold off from entering the first phase if they had not seen a 14-day decline in hospitalizations and infections. Restaurants in counties full of commuters like Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, could potentially become the first in the D.C. region to lift dine-in bans that have restricted venues to takeout and delivery.

In Virginia’s Phase One plan, barbershops, salons, spas, and tattoo parlors would reopen by appointment only while also operating at 50 percent capacity. Waiting areas will enforce social distancing of 6 feet between customers, and everyone inside will be required to wear a protective face mask. Nonessential retail businesses will reopen at half capacity, but entertainment venues like movie theaters and concert halls will stay closed. “Stay-at-home” orders have now shifted to a “safer in place” approach.

On Tuesday, May 5, Northam said that Virginia would likely reopen next week, but specific details were not available until today. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also expects to begin reopening next week, barring a setback.

While leaders in the region are trying to coordinate approaches, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has so far taken a more cautious approach in the District. The mayor refused to answer questions about whether she would expand D.C.’s emergency orders, set to expire May 15, but she said it “makes no sense” to reopen restaurants while the public health crisis is still severe. (edited)

D.C. reported 19 new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, matching a single-day high from April 30.