Today (Mon 5/18), DC Council Chaiman Mendelson’s staff circulated the language of the latest COVID-19 related bill. Unfortunately, although an outdoor dining expansion provision had been included after being drafted by CM Cheh and CM Allen, due to the objection of Mayor Bowser’s administration (and other unnamed entities/individuals), Chairman Mendelson’s staff noted the following:
The former Section 207 (Outdoor dining expansion) has been deleted and is expected to be refined and brought back for consideration at the Council’s June 9th meeting. There was objection to inclusion of it at this time from several sources, including the Executive, and it was noted that the ReOpenDC Advisory Committee and ABRA are working on this issue and will have their recommendations later this month.
This was disappointing as I had been informed that several of the recommendations I had made were going to be incorporated in updated language and that waiting three weeks until the council could take up the measure would mean the loss of real dollars as it will take time for the plans to be implemented and closures approved once dining/drinking at restaurants is permitted with restrictions.
However, on the other hand, this may be beneficial-this is the first official acknowledgment that the Mayor, ReOpenDC advisory committee, and ABRA are indeed working on expanding public space usage for restaurants/bars, and a measure that has their full support would be more likely to actually allow restaurants/bars to operate in that manner. Zach Hoffman, a bartender and a leader within the DC Bar and Restaurant Workers Alliance told me on Twitter that:
I think this is actually a good move. The ReOpen Committee has a pretty interesting swath of industry and regulators on it and can probably fine tune the language and fit it into the phased re open plan. (It wasn’t going to be possible in a phase 1 roll out so there’s time).
Indeed Mayor Bowser and her administration may have the ability (due to the public health emergency) to close streets and allow dining/drinking without DC Council acting, but time will tell.