Patrons supportive, restaurant owners frustrated – DC braces for another indoor dining ban

On Monday, FOX 5 heard from a number of business owners and managers who feel they are once again being targeted by the latest coronavirus rollback in the District: a temporary indoor dining ban.

The mayor’s office refers to the suspension as a "Holiday Pause" and emphasized, it is a temporary one – only supposed to last around three weeks.

READ MORE: DC indoor-dining ban goes into effect Wednesday at 10 pm, mayor’s office says

According to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at her Monday COVID-19 news update, they do not plan to extend the temporary ban past the 5 a.m., January 15th deadline. That’s when the Mayor says dining would then return to what it is now: 25% capacity.

"We understand the public health need in order to have the ban, in order to really see an impact on resurgence. From the business standpoint through. It’s hard it’s really difficult. Nobody plans a business based off only using a portion of it," said Hook Hall owner, Anna Valero.

Knowing the struggle her employees and others in the industry are facing, Valero hosted a second "Hook Hall Helps" event, where thanks to the donations from restaurants across the city, Queen Vic Chef Ryan Gordon was able to prepare 200 meals. This was enough for around 65 people to receive three different dinners and a bag of supplies (toilet paper included), from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Northwest DC business on Monday.

The struggling workers this was all prepared for, are restaurant, bar, hotel even entertainment industry employees who have either lost work or are facing hard times as rollbacks and financial woes continue. Valero voiced concern more would be furloughed once the indoor dining suspensions starts on Wednesday.

"A little bit callous. A little bit, you know, we’re taking all the burden. Small businesses, we’re taking all the burden," said a frustrated Steve Forbes on Monday, responding to the mayor’s Monday COVID-19 Update news conference.

READ MORE: "DC To-GoGo" app encouraged as restaurants brace for indoor dining shutdown

Forbes is a managing partner of Proper 21 in Northwest D.C. "If you’re going to say fifty-percent indoor dining, why no mandate fifty-percent leases, why not mandate fifty-percent bills, why are we taking the hit? Twenty-five percent? Great. Twenty-five percent lease, twenty-five percent bills. No dining? Then pause our bills. There’s some relief coming but it’s not close to enough," Forbes added.

Mark Bucher, co-owner of Medium Rare told FOX 5, "If you’re going to eliminate half my revenue, 75% of my revenue that’s already been adjusted down since March, help me get it back somehow. And the way you help me get it back is you either A say we’re going to suspend sales tax remittance for you for 2020, so you keep that money to offset the sales you’re losing. We are going to force insurers your businesses interruption insurance key to a percentage of the business that we’re limiting you to, so you can recover this. We are going to get you stimulus to keep your people…"

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Patrons, understanding of the business owner’s frustrations, also tell FOX 5 they support the temporary suspension.

"Where COVID cases are and they’re rising, I do think that having - not having indoor dining or now and a period of time might be helpful," said Amy Bhopal, dining on K St. NW with a family member on Monday.

Frederick Williams, looking to enjoy day’s warmer winter temps, said, "I don’t know how you eat outside here with no covering. I don’t see how that works but we have to do what we have to do to get through this pandemic."

"We’re asking everybody to make this sacrifice so that out hospital workers won’t be overwhelmed," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Barber shops, hair salons and nail salons are still allowed to operate, "by appointment only with stations seated at least six feet apart," according to the Mayor’s office.

Other non-essential retail, such as bookstores, gift shops, toy stores, clothing stores and boutiques, are allowed to operate at 25% capacity or no more than 250 people. There must also be social distancing measures.