DC Will Shut Down Indoor Dining Beginning December 23

Restaurants will have to rely on outdoor dining and takeout

Photograph by Evy Mages

DC will completely shutdown indoor dining from December 23 at 10 PM through January 15 at 5 AM in an attempt to combat rising Covid cases.

Washington City Paper scooped the news earlier today, citing “sources with knowledge of the situation.” The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington also sent out an email to members saying an “official notification is expected to happen soon” and that businesses should prepare to convert to takeout and delivery options. Mayor Muriel Bowser did not officially confirm the news until after 10 PM on Friday when she posted an executive order on Twitter.

The order comes just days after the city officially reduced indoor seating capacity from 50 to 25 percent. Indoor dining hasn’t been banned in DC since June.

The move is in line with similar suspensions in the Maryland suburbs. Montgomery and Prince George’s completely shut down dining rooms this week. Anne Arundel was poised to do the same, but a group of restaurants sued the county, arguing that the dining ban singled out restaurants over other businesses. A judge granted an injunction that temporarily blocks the county executive’s order until at least the next hearing on Dec. 28.

Now the Restaurant Association of Maryland is seeking a similar restraining order and injunction in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Baltimore City that they hope will lift the indoor dining bans by Christmas.

“Governor Hogan has indicated that there is no data or evidence that he or his team has seen that warrants the closure of indoor dining,” RAM President and CEO Marshall Weston, Jr. said in a press conference earlier today.

Meanwhile, Virginia continues to allow restaurants to operate at half capacity indoors.

DC is is tightening the rules for restaurants just as it is recently loosened rules for places of worship. The latter change comes after a lawsuit from the Archdiocese of Washington arguing churches should be treated like restaurants in terms of capacity. Previously, there was a 50 person cap on religious services. Now, places of worship in DC can have 25 percent capacity or up to 250 people, whichever number is smaller.

This story was updated with Mayor Bowser’s executive order. 

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.