This story has been updated with new information from the Restaurant Association and Mayor’s Office.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she will extend DC’s ban on indoor dining until Friday, January 22. The restriction, which went into place days before the December holidays, was originally expected to lift on January 15. The extension isn’t necessarily about Covid numbers, but coincides with the public-safety emergency that’s in effect through Inauguration due to last week’s riots and continued threats on the Capitol.
Other DC-area jurisdictions had also hit pause on indoor dining in December, including Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Northern Virginia restaurants continue to operate at 50 percent capacity. Under the extension of phase two restrictions, museums in DC will also be closed.
The emergency order doesn’t impact a restaurant’s ability to offer outdoor dining and takeout, although if a curfew goes into place as it did last week, outdoor dining hours may be affected. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington says that Winter Restaurant Week, which was slated to start on January 18, will now begin a week later on January 25 “given the fluid nature of activities and regulatory measures tied to Washington, DC’s current State of Emergency affecting the region,” says RAMW president Kathy Hollinger. The two-week promotion has changed its format to emphasize takeout and delivery specials alongside on-premise dining where permitted.
Several business owners expressed their frustration over social media with the indoor dining ban being extended through inauguration—typically a very busy time in the hospitality industry. Though with the Biden administration warning against travel to DC—and growing fears over safety after the mobs last week—how significant restaurant patronage will be around January 20 remains uncertain.