Street dining may be an option in DC once reopening begins

You’ve heard about sidewalk dining, but how about street dining?

As D.C. slowly moves towards reopening, there’s word the District is looking at closing down some street lanes to allow restaurants to spread tables outside, to allow customers to socially distance.

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Officials say it’s going to look different in different parts of D.C. 

In some areas, like on K Street, you have lots of restaurants together. There is only so much sidewalk. One idea is setting up tables in the street. 

The owner-chef at Alta Strada restaurant says Michael Schlow says, “That might be an answer. I think we’re going to have to see what the restrictions actually are. Will there be separation between tables? We know they’ll be some sort of distance but will there have to be physical – some sort of physical separation as well."

Schlow says his main concern is safety, both for his customers and his staff.  

Across the street, D.C. restaurateur Andy Shallal runs one of his Busboys And Poets restaurants. Shallal is also part of Mayor Bowsers ‘Re-Opening Task Force’.  

The D.C. Council will consider a bill by councilmembers Charles Allen and Mary Cheh to let restaurants and business districts apply for new permits for expanded outdoor dining options.

Councilmember Allen says they’d work with the DC Department Of Transportation on this. Andy Shallal says whatever for re-opening does take, it will not be business as usual. 

“My perspective on this is: it’s not going to be like going from 0-100. That’s not going to happen” Shallal says. "This is going to be like a soft opening, it’s like opening a brand new restaurant. You don’t open a restaurant and let the flood gates come in, you do a 'soft opening.'"

Speaking to FOX 5, Councilmember Allen says the accommodations will look different in different parts of the city.  

“I think they could close and entire curb lane for example, make sure we’ve got safe pedestrian passageways but also expand that sidewalk or even put the tables out in the curb lane.”

But while re-opening is not happening yet, these are conversations Allen says need to be held now.  

"A lot of other cities have figured this out and frankly we’re pretty far behind the curve on this," said Allen.

It’s not known when the DC Council will vote on this, but they’ve got about three weeks to figure it out.

Under Mayor Bowser’s order, restaurants are limited to carry-out only at least until June 8.

If street dining takes hold, it might be here for a while. One bill before the council would allow restaurants to keep the new outside space for up to a year.