Hill Restaurant Group Says It Will Defy DC’s Coronavirus Restrictions

Mayor Muriel Bowser responds: "You must comply."

Coronavirus 2020

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While DC’s restaurants and bars are scrambling to reconfigure their seating, offer takeout, or shut down in response to the city’s new coronavirus restrictions, at least one restaurant group is defying the safety mandates.

Yesterday, mayor Muriel Bowser announced the city is banning bar seating, requiring six feet between tables, and closing nightclubs altogether, among other measures. However, a rep for Hill Restaurant Group—which operates seven businesses in the Capitol Hill area including Hawk ‘n’ Dove, Lola’s, and Willie’s sports bar—posted a note on the private District Industry Facebook group saying it “will not bow down to pressure from the Mayor’s Office or any group for that matter who covertly is attempting to shut us down.” It concluded: “It is not our burden to bear nor is it our staffs burden to bear.”

Here’s the full thing, which I made public on Twitter last night:

Hill Restaurant Group did not respond to a request for comment. However, NBC4 reporter Mark Segraves spoke to managing partner Tom Johnson who called the restrictions “ridiculous” and “unconstitutional.”

“Let the mayor shut us down,” the owner told Segraves.

Bowser responded, telling Hill Restaurant Group they must comply with the DC Health notice and that she will use government agencies, including the police, in order to ensure it.

She continues: “We all have an obligation to do our part to contain the spread of this global pandemic and get to the business of recovery as soon as possible. Until then, your compliance is required, and we will exercise the full force of our MPD, FEMS, DC Health and ABRA and the emergency authority to achieve it. Meanwhile, I hope your patrons will encourage you to modify your operations at the soonest, to consider grab & go and delivery options in your food serving establishments…”

On Monday morning, Johnson told the Washington Post that he would comply. He will shutdown four of his restaurants that have only bar seating or are too small to keep table six feet apart.

“I have to start letting people go. I don’t have the wherewithal to pay them,” Johnson told the Post. “It’s literally going to put me out of business. I’m going to go bankrupt.”

We will update this post as the story develops.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.