Leaders across DC region working to address outdoor dining structures

Outdoor dining structures have been popping up at restaurants all over the DC region and they’re complicating how area governments regulate dining space to lower the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

In Montgomery County, leaders are still working to determine how fully-enclosed structures outside will factor in to indoor-dining capacity, given that in those instances airflow is restricted so much many scientists consider it as bad or worse than traditional indoor dining.

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“We treat anything that has four walls essentially as indoor dining space and so it has to meet the indoor dining standards. The thing that we're struggling with now is actually how we apply the capacity limits with regard to the outdoor, indoor dining spaces,” said Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

County officials tell FOX 5 an executive order on the topic is forthcoming.

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The DC mayor’s office says right now, igloos or other enclosed structures are not considered indoor dining, which are subject to further capacity restrictions.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has limited indoor dining to 25 percent capacity beginning December 14.

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Four-walled tents, igloos and other enclosed structures have been installed in Bethesda, at D.C.’s wharf and along the 14th Street corridor.

The Prince George’s County Health Department says in order to be considered outdoor dining, a structure must be open on two sides. Otherwise, it must conform to a 25 percent capacity restriction for indoor dining.