DC Bars and Restaurants Will Face Fines (or Worse) for Repeat Vaccine Mandate Violations

Alcohol-serving establishments will get two warnings before receiving fines starting at $1,000.

Washington, Dc, USA - December, 23,2020: Close up view of blurred COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card by CDC in hand.

DC’s vaccine mandate for indoor dining goes into effect Saturday, January 15. Patrons 12 and older must show proof of at least one Covid shot to start, and documentation for full vaccination by Feb. 15. (People claiming medical or religious exemptions have to bring evidence of a negative PCR or antigen test from the past 24 hours.)

So what happens if restaurants, bars, and other alcohol-serving businesses don’t follow the rules? The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration—the government agency charged with enforcing the mandate among liquor-licensed establishments—says their focus is on education before punishment. The first two violations come with warnings—verbal and then written. On the third strike, businesses will face a $1,000 fine, then a $2,000 fine for an additional infraction. After a fifth violation, establishments will go before the DC liquor board, which has the power to suspend or revoke their liquor license.

The same warnings and fines also apply for violations of DC’s reinstated indoor mask mandate. Since ABRA investigators began enforcing that Mayor’s order over the past week, four businesses have received verbal warnings: Taco Bell Cantina for staff not wearing masks, and El Centro D.F., the Mayflower Club, and Decades for patrons entering without masks.

The public can report violations of the vaccine and mask mandates—anonymously if they want—by emailing, calling 202-329-6347, or online here.

Beyond restaurants and bars, the new vaccine mandate also applies to recreation centers, gyms, concert halls, sporting venues, meeting establishments, and other indoor venues outlined here. A physical CDC vaccination card, digital copy/photo, or other verification app (such as VaxYes or CLEAR) may all be accepted as proof of vaccination.

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.