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D.C.’s Restaurant Association Plans for an ‘Intimate’ Awards Gala at the Convention Center

The Rammys are set for September with a limited red carpet and a virtual component

Scenes from the 2015 Rammy Awards
Scenes from the 2015 Rammy Awards.
Rammys/official photo
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center is still set to host the glitzy annual gala honoring the region’s best participating restaurants, bars, and chefs — but it will be adjusted for the COVID-19 crisis this year.

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) and its Events DC partners announced today the 38th annual Rammy Awards show is shooting for a rescheduled date Sunday, September 20, 2020. The event was originally set for Sunday, July 26.

Per a release, this year’s edition will feature an “intimate” red carpet reception for finalists, sponsors, and select members of the media, with “a virtual component.” It’s unclear how many attendees will be able to snag a ticket to this year’s black tie gala, because that depends on how well D.C. contains the coronavirus moving forward. Format details will be announced as the date approaches, “updated in line with current safety guidance.”

In May, the Army Corps of Engineers converted the convention center into a field hospital full of extra beds that could combat a summer surge in coronavirus cases if necessary. Officials told Fox News near the end of the May that those facilities had not been used.

In pre-pandemic times, the industry event packs 2,500 guests inside the convention center. The lengthy evening traditionally kicks off with a packed oyster-and-Champagne reception hour, followed by a sit-down awards ceremony and a lively after-party featuring multiple bars, tasting stations, DJs, and a dance floor — none of which would make sense during a pandemic.

On Monday, June 22, D.C. entered the second phase of easing restrictions in its reopening plan, allowing restaurants to host customers indoors for the first time in three months. Under the ReOpen DC advisory group’s recommendations, Phase 3 would allow indoor entertainment venues such as theaters and arenas to host up to 250 people at a time with distancing protocols put into place.

In late March, soon after D.C. enacted a dine-in ban to combat the novel coronavirus, RAMW delayed announcing finalists by about a month. Restaurants up for multiple awards this year include Centrolina, Rooster & Owl, and Trummer’s.

Despite the uncertainty of hosting any kind of event this year, RAMW says the show must go on in order to “rebuild” the industry.

Kathy E. Hollinger, president and CEO of RAMW, released the following statement on Thursday:

In this year, where restaurants have encountered so much, The RAMMYS have even greater significance as they are an opportunity to rebuild, to create marketing visibility where it is needed, and to engage partners to be part of that industry resurgence. Just like restaurant operators had to rethink their businesses this year, The RAMMYS too will approach this moment to focus on industry relief, to acknowledge the creativity and strength of our local operators, and to creatively rethink the event and its purpose this year to deliver a unique experience and to drive needed recovery.”

The annual awards ceremony honors vendors, chefs, and restaurants across 20 categories; public voting decides four: Favorite Gathering Place of the Year, Upscale Brunch of the Year, Casual Brunch of the Year, and Favorite Fast Bites of the Year. More information on the awards process can be found here.