DC Loosens Some Restaurant and Bar Restrictions, but Indoor Dining Remains Capped at 25 Percent

Groups of 10 can sit together and live music will be allowed on restaurant patios beginning May 1.

Outdoor seating at Bindaas Cleveland Park. Photograph by Greg Powers.

As DC’s rate of Covid infections declines and more than 237,000 DC residents have received vaccines, the city is loosening some restrictions for restaurants and bars. Beginning May 1, groups of up to 10 people will be able to sit together at a table—an increase from six. Restaurants will be allowed to host live music outdoors. And if you’re sitting al fresco, you no longer will be required to order food along with your alcoholic drink.

DC continues to have the most restrictive rules in the region for indoor dining with capacity still capped at 25 percent. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have expanded indoor dining capacity to 50 percent. In Virginia, parties only have to be six feet apart. DC is also the only place in the region that doesn’t allow bartenders to serve patrons from behind a bar. (People can sit at the bar if it’s not staffed.)

Meanwhile, in a mayoral press conference today, DC officials did not seem too keen on the idea of a vaccine passport, which was recently pushed by Madam’s Organ. DC Director of Health LaQuandra Nesbitt says city officials recently spoke with CDC public health experts and Dr. Anthony Fauci about relaxing guidance for places that are only serving fully vaccinated people. The takeaway: mitigation strategies and restrictions are still needed in publicly occupied venues and for mass gatherings.

“There’s a couple of fault lines that should not be crossed in terms of saying ‘If this bar only opens to fully vaccinated people, it can open with dancing and full capacity and no masks’,” Nesbitt says. “We are not at the place yet where that type of thing is advisable.”

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.