DC Restaurant Week excitement halted by worry over delta variant, mask mandate

Many D.C. restaurants are on edge as the delta variant creates worries just as the industry is getting ready to welcome diners for Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week starting Aug. 9.

D.C's indoor mask mandate just went into effect this past weekend and some restaurants say they have already seen bookings decline significantly.

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"We usually do about 50, 55, 60 covers on a normal weekday night and that's dropped to about half," said Zachary Hoffman, beverage director at Cafe Fili near H Street Northeast.

Some restaurant managers say they would like to see D.C. implement a mandate like New York City, which is requiring people to be vaccinated before they are allowed to enter indoor public spaces, in lieu of a mask mandate.

"I really think we should move to more of a verified vaccination plan rather than masking indoors. I think it just makes more sense for everybody," Hoffman said.

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Dupont Circle's Rewind and Decades General Manager Michael Sydnor is less enthusiastic about that concept.

"As far as asking guests I would just feel a tad bit uncomfortable," he said.

The diner and nightclub has also seen reservations decline as a result of the delta variant.

Restaurants say the mask-wearing is difficult and awkward to enforce.

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On Wednesday, ABRA, D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, released guidelines on the mask mandate, indicating its enforcement would be focused on staff wearing masks inside and patrons masking up "to enter inside of the establishment."

That wording suggests ABRA may look the other way if customers have masks down while at a table or bar, although the mayor's order still says the exception is only when someone is actively eating or drinking.