DC bars, restaurants hope to expand outdoor seating when the city begins to reopen

D.C. bars and restaurants at risk of going under said business may improve if they’re allowed to take more of it outside once it’s safe for the District to begin reopening.

Take, for instance, Beauchert’s Saloon on Capitol Hill. Owner and Chef Andrew Markert has had to let more than half of his staff go, he’s overhauled his menu to make it more delivery-friendly, and he’s now using his indoor seating space as dry storage instead. But whenever it’s safe to resume start sit-down dining, Markert said it would be a huge help if he was allowed to use more space outside.

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“Whether it be in front of our neighbors who are a gym for children, they’re not using that patio space, or to the left of us we have a math tutor – if we had the ability to take over some of that space for a short amount of time or even out more on the sidewalk, it would give us the essential space and the essential tables we need to continue to operate,” Markert explained.

He’s far from alone.

On Monday, the blog Barred in DC published an open letter, recommending six ways District leaders could help keep bars and restaurants alive. Creating additional outdoor space got the most attention, including from Chef Jose Andres, who tweeted, “this has been on the recommendation list to Mayor Bowser from day one, including closing some streets.”

“I’m just hoping to generate the conversation because we need to have this conversation as soon as possible,” Barred In DC Founder and Operator Raman Santra said Monday evening.

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So far, so good. Matthew Weiss, who owns Barrel and four other D.C. restaurants said, “I do like the idea a lot because I think people are gonna be much more comfortable sitting outside than inside.”

And Markert said for him, additional outdoor seating could be the difference between keeping his doors open or closing for good.

“It’s essential for us to be able to have that kind of capacity again to operate as a business,” he said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.