Mayor Orders Closure of Restaurants, Bars, Gyms

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Mayor Bowser speaks at press conference Monday. Screenshot: March 16, mayor.dc.gov/live

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Mayor Bowser announced that bars, restaurants and taverns would be limited to delivery and take-out service starting at 10 p.m. Monday, March 16.

Health clubs, spas, gyms and movie theaters also must close according to the order, which prohibits mass gatherings of more than 50 people. The order is in effect until March 31, but can be extended during the public emergency.

One draft of the legislation currently circulating contains provisions to allow restaurants to deliver sealed containers of alcoholic beverages together with orders of food.DC Homeland and Security Management Agency (DC HSEMA) Director Chris Rodriguez said people need to stop ‘hoarding’ or ‘over-purchasing’ items. Grocery stores will remain open throughout this period, he said, and indications are that there are enough provisions in the supply chain to meet needs.

Rodriguez said that empty shelves in grocery stores were a result of this increased demand. While this reaction is understandable in this unprecedented context, Rodriguez said, one way residents can pitch in is by only purchasing what they need.

Bowser said that social distancing, or keeping 6 feet or more away from other people, is one of the most effective tools in flattening the curve, or managing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That is critical to ensure that hospitals and medical centers are able to meet the needs of patients and have the beds, personnel and resources to assist those that are critically ill, she added.

Asked about enforcement of the terms of the order, Bowser said that the city is getting complaints from residents about those violating terms, and an investigation later could lead to those businesses losing their license. “I can pull limited emergency personnel to chase people down and issue fines or people can do the right thing, businesses can do the right thing,” she said.

“Listen, as mayor I don’t wake up in the morning and try to figure out how I can shut down a business, or issue a fine,” she added. “But I will do it.”

Together with Governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Ralph Northam of Virginia, Bowser released a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that a priority federally-supporting COVID-19 testing site be established in the National Capital Region. She said that during a telephone call with the President earlier today, she had the opportunity to make the request herself and hoped to hear back from the administration shortly.

On Tuesday, DC Council is expected to consider emergency legislation that will make financial provisions for affected businesses, including grants and delays in sales tax payments, as well as for affected workers of those businesses, largely through Unemployment Insurance and other paid leave programs.

Find an updating list of Hill restaurants offering pickup and delivery on the Hill Rag online.

There are currently 17 known cases of COVID-19 in DC. Get updates on Coronavirus or COVID-19 by visiting coronavirus.dc.gov