Author Archives: Barred in DC

Where to Find Best Bagels in DC

Bagel prepared in the Barred in DC-style (butter cut into quarters)

Someone (not from NY) posted something about a terrible DC bagel yesterday and it got all the likes. So I thought it would be best to make a list of all the DC proper (that is within the limits of the District of Columbia for the complainers out there) spots that you can get a great bagel. Here are details (hours of operation subject to change). Not in any kind of order

Bagel Spots (Bagels is in the Name)

  • Bagels, etc. (Dupont)
    • 6a-4p M-Sat, 6a-3p Sun
    • Pickup only (may be able to call ahead 202-466-7171)
  • Bethesda Bagels (Dupont, Navy Yard in DC)
    • 7:30a-2p daily
    • Pickup: Online preorder preferred, walk-in accepted
    • Delivery: Place by 8p for next day using form ($25 min, $5 fee)  OR UberEats
  • Bullfrog Bagels (Eastern Market, H Street, Brookland, Tenleytown Food Truck)
    • EM: 7a-2p M-F, 8a-2p Sat-Sun; H St: 7a-2p Tue-Sun; Brookland: 7a-1p Fri-Sun; Tenley Truck: 8a-1p W-F, 9a-2p Sat-Sun
    • Pickup: Chownow/Onlne, Text 33733 on Mobile Phone, Online for next day orders
    • Delivery: Doordash, Online for next day/future orders.

Not Necessarily Just Bagel Spots/Bakery/Deli

  • Baked by Yael (CP/Woodley Park across from zoo, Satellite location in Dupont at JCCC, Farmer’s Markets)
    • 8a-4p daily at main location, 7:30a-noon M-F at JCCC
    • Pickup: Walk-in, Online ($5 min)
    • Delivery: Online ($15 min; shipping available w/ $20 min), possibly UberEats
    • Known for cakepops but bagels are reportedly great
  • Buffalo & Bergen (Capitol Hill, Union Market)
    • 8a-3p W-Sun,  (currently only Capitol Hill
    • Pickup: Online/ToastTab, Call 202-525-3350
    • Delivery: UberEats
  • Call Your Mother (Park View, Barracks Row, soon to Georgetown)
    • 8a-1p Tue-Sun
    • Pickup: ToastTab/Online
    • Shyne Bagel and challah sandwiches popular
  • So’s Your Mom (Adams Morgan)
    •  7a-4p daily
    • Pickup: Walk-in, call (maybe) 202-462-3666
    • Deli/Cash only
  • GW Deli (Foggy Bottom)
    • 6:30a-4p M-F, 8a-3p Sat
    • Pickup: Walk-in, Online/Ritual
    • Delivery: UberEats
    • Reportedly DC’s best trad’l bacon egg and cheese
  • Sweet Crimes (Logan Circle/U Street)
    • 9a-3p W-F, 10a-2p
    • Pickup: Online (Pickup at Ice Cream Jubilee)
    • Delivery: Online for Next Day/Future, DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats, Postmates, Shipping Available
    • GLUTEN FREE!

Support a Charity – If You Can

[The following is an unrolled version of a Twitter thread]

A lot of people are hurting out there in the DC area, the U.S. and around the world. Unemployment benefits are not going to last forever and many people (e.g., undocumented individuals) are ineligible for unemployment or the federal stimulus funds. But the majority of you, like myself, have not been financially affected, and at least some of us likely received stimulus money in our bank accounts that we are just going to add to savings. Also, although it has been barely reported on, the CARES Act creates a $300 above-the-line charitable deduction in 2020 (and likely going forward though experts disagree)) federal income taxes, which means you can deduct up to $300 of donations to charities from your taxable income EVEN if you don’t itemize (which is 85%+ of filers).

So, if you are able to and can spare, I hope you can donate to one of these non-profit/charities listed below. Many of these I’ve supported for years but most were suggested by you and are new to me. We are personally supporting the most of them but all seem worthy. I encourage you to support any charity, even those not listed.

As an added show of my appreciation, I’ll send a Barred in DC koozie to anyone who has donated $25 to any of these organizations listed in 2020 (if you want to spread the love, aggregate $25 is ok). I’m not affiliated with any of these. Just DM me on Twitter or Instagram or email barredindc@gmail.com w/ some proof/mailing address. Those with * appear to have a focus on supporting immigrants.

DC Organizations 

National/International Organizations

Organizations for Racial Justice

ATTN MAYOR BOWSER – Define Restaurant, Bar and Nightclub in a Way that Makes Sense for Reopening of DC

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

[Edited to fix typos and clarify ReOpen DC Committee’s recommendation/big idea re: changing license types]

Today, Mayor Boswer’s ReOpen DC Advisory Group issued a relatively detailed 80 page plan to guide DC as it lifts the stay-at-home order (likely this Tuesday for Friday, May 29th) and “reopens” DC in a four stage process (Stage 1: declining virus transmission; Stage 2: only localized transmission; Stage 3: Sporadic transmission; Stage 4: vaccine/cure). Read a four-byline WAMU/DCist article for more details.

In addition to the incredibly important safety issues (predominant), most relevant for this website was the recommendations for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

Restaurants: 1) Open outdoors w/ distancing; 2) Indoor seating up to 50% 3) More than 50% with case-by-case approval; 4) open 100%

Bars and Nightclubs: 1) Closed; 2) Closed; 3) 5 people per 1000 square feet w/ no more than 50% capacity (meaning 20 people max at even bigger spots) 4) open 100%

BUT, as noted in detail by Laura Hayes in an article today, THERE IS NO LEGAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN A BAR AND RESTAURANT in DC (I’ve been saying this for years pedantically but now it makes a difference). Noted liquor license attorney Andrew Kline, who was on a ReOpen DC committee, told me and Laura and that their expectation was that a “restaurant” would generally include any business with a substantial food component. Well, you can throw out a definition that makes a hot dog a sandwich, but there is no way to objectively determine which businesses have a substantial food component and those who do not. Clearly, the 850+ businesses with “restaurant” liquor licenses who are required to provide documentation to ABRA that they sell 40% of their revenue in food (or a certain $$/seat), would qualify, but what about 1) a coffee shop or other establishment that but doesn’t have a liquor license, or 2) holders of tavern (400 spots), multipurpose (45) , and nightclub (35) licenses, majority(?) of which are authorized by DCRA and Department of Health to sell food to eat on premises? These businesses may sell a substantial amount of food and meals but do not have to certify or even keep track of  their food sales to anyone, even themselves. How would a business or DC itself objectively determine what establishments have a “substantial food component”? Look at their menus?  Check Yelp reviews and count how many talk about food v. drinks?

This seems unworkable and untenable for the businesses who could be able to safely open (for staff and customers) but otherwise will be on the brink of ruin if they don’t have the same shot as similar establishments. This dooms literally 1/3 of the spots in DC to likely extinction. In many parts of DC (such as H Street) with a concentration of tavern licenses, not allowing these to open if they have the ability to serve food would leave neighborhoods with massive closures. Mayor Bowser and her Administration need to clearly define the distinction in an objective manner. Kline tells Laura that the first two phases that health officials are emphasizing allowing people to go and sit “to eat food, not necessarily where you go to drink alcohol and socialize.” But you can still goto a restaurant (which most of them serve alcohol) to drink alcohol and socialize, so I’m not sure this actually does anything.

So,here is my attempt to provide my own recommendations for Mayor Bowser:

1. Restaurant should be defined as any establishment that has received a license from DCRA (e.g. restaurant) to serve food on premises

This is clear, already-existing legal definition of restaurant. It includes both spots that don’t or do serve alcohol. It requires no subjective determination of what is a “substantial food component.”

2. All establishments allowed to open for customers to drink and eat should be held to the same standards.

If DC is worried about risky behavior happening, there is no guarantee that this will happen in a restaurant but not in a tavern. Most Sunday Funday Brunchday start (and sometimes end) at restaurant licensees. All places that are open will be closely scrutinized not only by DCRA, DOH, and ABRA, but they will be scrutinized by the general public.

If you are banning dance floors, standing, live music, etc., there’s no reason why bars and even nightclubs that have food be allowed the same ability to stay viable with outdoor seating and eventual 50% capacity as those with restaurant licenses if all operate under the same restrictions. It’s clear to me that’s why many states have banned bars in early phases, but that ignores that many bars in DC have tables and serve really good food.

Although many people will not like me even suggesting this, if it’s really a concern that you don’t want people just going out to drink with friends, do what several states have already done and require that food be purchased if alcohol is served to a customer. This would be consistent with the takeout/delivery alcohol flexibility but would allow taverns, nightclubs (DC9), and multipurpose facilities (The Hamilton) the ability to stay viable.

3. If you find a workable standard for “substantial food component,” that excludes swath of licensees, allow liberal reclassification of licenses.

If somehow you are able to RBG a workable standard for “substantial food component” and for some reason restrict this to only restaurants and maybe some taverns on a case by case basis,  you must allow all liquor-serving establishments the ability to reclassify themselves temporarily to a restaurant liquor license, even if that means they will have to partner with a food truck or ghost kitchen to provide meals. The ReOpen DC committee suggested “Flexibility for food service establishments to change the type of license they hold within the food service category” but the  term “food service” is a DCRA basic business license term which seems to imply it’s suggesting that other types of licenses like caterers, deli’s, and food products can switch to restaurant; this should clarify that ABRA licensees can move to another license if it’s necessary to be open as a “restaurant.”

You still have time to make the guidelines and the order right. Make good use of it.

Mayor Bowser Proposes More Hours and Take-Out/Delivery Alcohol For Bars and Restaurants Permanently

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

Mayor Bowser introduced her Fiscal Year 2021 proposed budget today (Mon. 5/18) and buried in the Fiscal Impact Statement from DC’s CFO (see page 33-34) that I found after some serious Googling are some smart proposals in the Alcoholic Beverage Sales and Delivery Amendment Act of 2020:

  • Permanently allow registered bars and restaurants to provide take-out and delivery alcohol (likely accompanied with prepared food item, existing registered licensees would be grandfathered by April 1, 2021, new ones would have to request endorsement. Basic $200/annual fee required).
  • Allow bars and restaurants to start serving alcohol at 6a daily (great for soccer or just getting off the clock) instead of 8a (2a weekday and 3a weekend closure still in effect)
  • Allow liquor stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, breweries, distilleries to sell between 6a-1a instead of current 7a-midnight
  • Expand 4a last call around inauguration from current Jan 15-21st to Jan 9th-24th and a few more Fri/Sat nights around a mid-week holiday (already allowed around all federal/DC holidays). Expands from about 27 days year to about 33 days (depending on calendar)

The law will still have to be considered by the Council but these are solid, easy ideas to implement. Note that the hours in particular could still be limited by settlement agreement but I don’t expect indoor hours to be restricted before 8a except maybe when a bar is adjacent to a house and a rowdy neighbor.

For the next four years, DC expects to generate additional sales tax revenues of $635k/year (6a bars/restaurants including food), $140k/year (extra 4a), and $8k/year (iquor stores being open longer). An assumption has been made that additional delivery/takeout alcohol will be a substitute for other sales.

 

 

 

Legislation to Permit Outdoor Dining Expansion into DC Streets and Other Public Space Tabled, For Now

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

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.

DC Council to Consider Measure on Tuesday to Close Streets for Outdoor Dining – An Analysis and Recommendations

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

[Edited to fix the incorrect members who introduced bill]
5/18 Update: Mayor Bowser’s office has convinced Chairman Mendelson to remove this from the bill and will consider it in 3 weeks:  “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. See update here:] 

After publishing my open letter to Mayor Bowser and DC Council on Monday, I received tons of support and appeared on the local news in particular over the suggestion to open up outdoor spaces for dining to help keep restaurants/bars viable. Council member Kenyan McDuffie appeared soon after me on the same program to express his support for the idea (though in all fairness, it’s clear that this idea had some supporters already). Today, the DC Council circulated an emergency bill with language drafted by Charles Allen and Mary Cheh to facilitate this. I think the bill is a great start and in ways it’s more ambitious than I expected, but it has a few shortfalls. I’ll first describe exactly what this bill does and my suggestions for improvements. WBJ has another more succinct analysis here.

WHAT CURRENT LANGUAGE DOES

Under the proposed language, the following entities can apply for a free Outdoor Dining Expansion permit from DDOT to close streets/alley to vehicle traffic for up to one year after the public health emergency has ended:

  1. Business Improvement District (BID) OR
  2. Main Street Program OR
  3. Restaurant/bar with a liquor license that already has a sidewalk cafe (doesn’t have to be in a BID or Main Street Program) AND is required by Mayor to operate at a reduced capacity due to the public health emergency

For BIDs and Main Streets (more below on what these are) can seek closure for any street in their jurisdiction, and a restaurant/bar seeking it for itself can request closure anywhere on their block, not just the space in front. The application must list the restaurants/bars that will take advantage (and those restaurants/bars must already have a sidewalk cafe and operating at a reduced capacity).

DDOT is required to approve an Outdoor Dining Expansion permit and close the street to motor vehicle traffic that complies with application requirements if these conditions are met:

  1. The local ANC has sent a letter of support.
  2. Closure of public space will not cause significant pubic safety concerns.

DDOT has 30 days from receipt of permit application to approve application.

What are the 11 BID’s in DC?

Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Golden Triangle (Farragut area), Downtown (includes Chinatown/PQ), NoMa, Capitol Hill, Capitol Riverfront (Navy Yard), Southwest, Anacostia

Credit: DC BID Council (http://www.dcbidcouncil.org/map/)

What are the Main Street Programs? (bolded spaces with significant numbers restaurant/bars)

Bladensburg Road, Cleveland Park,  Congress Heights, District Bridges (Mount Pleasant/Columbia Heights) Glover Park, H Street, Logan Circle, Lower Georgia (Petworth, Pleasant Plains, and Park View), Minnesota Avenue, North Capitol (Bloomingdale), Rhode Island Ave. (Woodridge), Shaw, Tenleytown, The Parks (Riggs and Manor Park), Uptown (Brightwood Park, north Columbia Heights, Upper Georgia (Brightwood and north) , U Street, Van Ness, Ward 7, Woodley Park

Barracks Row, Eastern Market, Georgetown, Dupont also have Main Street Programs but appear to already have BIDs covering the space.

What’s not covered by BID or Main Street that Has At least Some of Bars/Restaurants?

Ivy City, Brookland, Palisades. Maybe some random blocks.

BARRED IN DC ANALYSIS

I think this language is a great start, and I’m very heartened that they are being proactive about this, but there are some issues lacking that I would encourage DC Council to address ASAP between now and Tuesday:

  1. Eliminate requirement of ANC “letter of support” except for bars/restaurants that are applying separately from (or are outside of) a BID/Main Street. If a BID or Main Street has expressed support AND DDOT feels that this does not cause pubic safety issues, this should be sufficient at least to initially approve the license. BIDs and Main Streets, although imperfect, are our best system of determining quickly the best option for the business in the neighborhood. Because ANCs do have a legal and important role in DC’s government, ANC’s role with BID/Main Street applications should be limited to proposing modifications to closed streets after approval (or during the submission process) if issues arise or if residents/businesses need mitigation. In serious issues they can submit a letter of opposition. ANCs only meet monthly usually and requiring a letter of support just unnecessarily extends this issue when the agency with the most important role, DDOT, can just make this call. Otherwise, it will be likely until mid July until any restaurants/bars can take advantage, taking away the key month of June which still has mostly non-heat stroke inducing outdoor weather.
  2. Eliminate requirement that business have a liquor license.Although most sit-down restaurants in DC have liquor licenses, there are plenty of eateries that don’t which don’t that could benefit from this. I see no reason to limit this and allow eateries (or even a retail business if it makes sense to put inventory out there) the ability to serve its customers safely w/ less fear and reduction of harm to employees.
  3. Eliminate requirement that a restaurant/bar already have a sidewalk cafe endorsement to take advantage. There are bars/restaurants all across the city (see H Street) who have no ability to have a sidewalk cafe because of sidewalk clearance. Many of these bars/restaurants in fact are permitted to have summer garden’s on private space which blur the lines and have successfully dealt with the issues of having outdoor dining/drinking space. The way the text is worded-these restaurants/bars would not have the ability to have any or additional outdoor space. If the city feels that this is unfair to those restaurants/bars who already have sidewalk cafes-perhaps a nominal fee should be charged to put them on equal footing with those with endorsements already.
  4. Eliminate requirement that Mayor has reduced capacity. It’s not a given that the Mayor will reduce indoor capacity by a fixed percentage, and if so, it’s unlikely that the reduction will last for an extended period of time. In the meantime it is almost guaranteed that droves of patrons will stay away from indoor spaces even (or because of) if capacity is restored to normal. It should be sufficient that the public health emergency has been declared. Given that is highly likely that this emergency will continue until next year, this issue can be mitigated a bit by shortening the 1 year post-emergency period to 6 or 9 months. Restaurants/bars should be able to apply immediately even before end of stay-at-order.
  5. Reduce 30 day application review period to 5 or 10 days. TODAY-DDOT. should start preliminary reviewing every block in a BID and every block in a Main Street to see which blocks would be safe or not for closure or partial closure. DDOT personnel likely already know which blocks will work and which will not and because most of these streets are not back streets, this should not be that obscure of a task. If the ANC is required to submit a letter of support (and I don’t recommend), this means it could be until mid-late July before this occurs. I think it’s entirely reasonable to require DDOT approval but let’s get this done as quickly and safely as possible.
  6. Explicitly allow applications to seek partial traffic closures. Currently the language makes it seem that DDOT will close entire street block 24/7. This may not make sense (particularly when weekday traffic returns in some fashion and deliveries are made on weekdays)-lanes can be closed only in evenings or on weekends to mitigate impact to businesses on the block. In some instances only one side or even one lane needs to be closed (e.g., to satisfy people who love parking, you could push out parking lane into travel lane and make parking spots dining spots. In fact, one restaurant with the support of their BID has already suggested closing one side of one street on weekends only.
  7. Explicitly Facilitate Use of Public Space Not Used by Vehicles or Pedestrians. I found that this legislation was more ambitious than expected as it went straight to closing streets. I think that is awesome and will be a huge help but in the event DDOT or the neighboring businesses do not feel that is appropriate, the law should explicitly allow DDOT to approve restaurants/bars to use other public space not currently necessary for pedestrians or moving vehicle traffic. That is, there are often neighboring daytime or non-eatery businesses on a block who would be happy to rent or lend out their outdoor sidewalk space for dining/drinking use during other hours. In addition, in some blocks with low traffic or speed streets, it may be safe to replace the parking spaces on the block with outdoor dining/drinking spaces. Although this already may be permitted by DDOT policy, but this seems to be low hanging fruit that can be included in here to expeditiously approved.
  8. [ADDED] Make clear that this provision explicitly supersedes any more restrictive Settlement Agreements. Almost no bar/restaurant in the city with a settlement agreement (most of them?) would technically not be allowed to do this so just to avoid any issues, edit that accordingly.

DC Mask/Face Covering Rules – What Do They Require

[UPDATED TO ADD NEW RULES]

Mayor Bowser’s order, lifting the stay-at-home order effective May 29th, made explicit that any mask guidance are mandatory: “Department of Health guidance relating to masks must be followed, as must the applicable orders of any regulatory agency for a specific activity.”

Unless you are 

  • 0-8 years old;
  • homeless; or
  • unable to wear one due to medical condition/disability (or can’t take a mask off without help)

You must wear masks/face coverings when 

At All Times

  • If you’re on a bus or train that goes through District (unless you’re in the train conductor compartment solo)
  • If you’re in a train or Metro station
  • If you’re a passenger or driver of a taxi/rideshare
  • If you are at a bar/restaurant inside or outside, while not eating or drinking
    • while ordering food
    • prior to being served,
    • after completion of meal
    • entering or leaving restaurant,
    • when going to restroom.
    • When waiting in line to enter a restaurant (way this is worded doesn’t seem directly mandatory but restaurants are required to ask you to do so)
    • Good rule of thumb: if there’s no food or drink on your table, keep your mask on.
  • If you’re working at a restaurant/bar
  • If working or a customer at a barber/hair salon
  • If you are an adult providing childcare at a daycare or other facility

Recommended only (it seems):

  • When leaving your home and entering public spaces. (says general guidance)
  • When entering a public setting, especially where social distancing is difficult to
    maintain, such as the grocery store or pharmacy (says facemask guidance)
  • When in a park “when around other people in a public space” (says park guidance)

In the Presence of Other People

  • While Engaging in Essential Business 
    • This means if you are a worker or customer of: healthcare, public works, utilities, , grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, dry cleaners, media, banks, other essential open business, you gotta wear a mask (unless you are solo)
    • Enforced by businesses. Required to exclude those people unless exception or otherwise illegal
  • While Engaging in Minimum Basic Operations of Non-essential Businesses 
    • basically applies to workers/vendors doing minimum things to keep non-essential business going (including keeping IT working and coming in to do deliveries)

When you cannot maintain at least six feet distance from other people who you don’t live with

  • While Engaged in Essential Travel 
    • Basically anytime you travel away from home for approved reasons
  • Doing Outdoor Recreational Activities 
    • walking
    • hiking
    • running
    • dog-walking
    • biking
    • rollerblading
    • scootering
    • skateboarding
    • gardening
    • fishing

You are also urged to reserve N95 or surgical masks for health care workers/first responders, people working in proximity to vulnerable positions or in them, and people who had to wear masks before COVID-19 due to a medical condition.

The big question is what does “cannot maintain” mean for the purposes of the 6 foot rule

It’s clear that, given the Facebook/Nextdoor group and PoPville posts about joggers (and walkers and cyclists for that matter) not wearing masks in DC, there are strong opinions on how to interpret this and  not everyone agrees on what this term means.

Both the City Paper and Washingtonian published articles about masks and jogging recently. The experts cited in both articles make clear that there is very little risk when momentarily passing people when jogging or other outdoor activities, but no one definitely states what the phrase means and some of the experts seem to suggest wearing masks in situations where momentary, but frequent, encounters within 6 feet are experienced like peak times in DC.

Another section of the original Mayor’s Order may give a hint, noting in a section regarding preparing parks for reopening that “non-sustained, outdoor contact with an infected individual is far less likely to lead to spread of COVID-19 than indoor, sustained contact,” clearly expressing the official opinion regarding COVID-19 spread.  Personally, I still wear masks when every time I leave home because it’s not that uncomfortable for myself and for now I recognize that a significant amount of people feel anxiety when they encounter unmasked people even fleeting.

 

How DC Can Help Keep Its Bars and Restaurants Alive – An Open Letter to Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

Dear Mayor Bowser, the Mayor’s Cabinet, the DC Council, and the ReOpen DC Committees:

I don’t have to tell you that most of DC’s bars, restaurants, and nightlife establishments, all of which are critical to the vibrant walkability of DC’s great neighborhoods, are in danger of going dark permanently due to the restrictions required to slow the spread of COVID-19. DC’s Small Business Recovery Microgrants Program, the flexibilities allowing carryout and delivery of alcohol, and other support have certainly provided a measure of assistance to those who have benefited, but I’m sure you know that is not enough.

As the operator of the website Barred in DC, I have closely observed this industry over the past 7 years (13 years as a permanent resident in 3 quadrants near diverse nightlife districts), constantly communicating with owners, employees, and customers. I also served for 4 years on a committee providing recommendations on liquor licensing issues to an ANC containing many restaurants/bars in close proximity to residences.  I have witnessed first-hand the value DC’s bars and restaurants provide to our neighborhoods, and have also seen the incredible innovation and creativity by owners and their staffs over the past two months as they attempt to survive.

In light of this background, I have six recommendations for your consideration.  Given that DC is legally prevented from spending more than it takes, none of these recommendations should require much additional financial resources on DC’s part. I understand that, even if implemented, no restaurant/bar can remain viable long without landlords, banks, and insurance companies sharing the burden, and without further funds injected into the system by the Federal government, but DC needs to do its part to make those in the industry some hope.

1. Listen to the Industry Regarding When to Reopen.

It may be counter-intuitive, but it’s apparent that at least some bars/restaurants only want to open when it’s safe enough that most people will feel comfortable eating/drinking out in DC.  Ask them whether they would want to open if DC does not feel the public health experts/metrics support opening more than 50% indoor capacity (seen in many states across the country) . They may prefer to wait until closer to full occupancy is possible. There will not be unanimity, but please carefully listen to who is saying what and ensure that there is a cross-section of establishments covered when deciding when to re-open for dine-in.

2. Create Additional Outdoor Space for Bars and Restaurants.

This is a key one. As research has shown, the coronavirus is spread more easily in confined spaces. This is why several states (diverse as Virginia, Ohio, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Louisiana) have allowed outdoor dining before indoors. Customers should be expected to be hesitant to patronize indoor spaces in great numbers until effective treatment or even a vaccine is widely available.  In DC, most bars and restaurants that have access to outdoor space (sidewalk cafe, courtyard, back patio, rooftop) that provide sufficient sidewalk clearance indeed use that space already. But there are plenty of establishments who either have space for no more than a handful of tables, or don’t have sufficient sidewalk space at all to offer outdoor dining/beverage service.

I urge DDOT, DPR, and all relevant agencies to identify areas adjacent to or in the vicinity of restaurants/bars that can be closed at appropriate times for outdoor dining/drinking until a vaccine is widely available. This could include on-street metered parking spaces, space in District or privately controlled parks and plazas, and even closing lanes of streets and alleys where appropriate and safe to do so without significant police presence. Other neighboring businesses with available unused outdoor space should be encouraged and permitted to partner with restaurants/bars. These retailers may have relatively small or no cross over in hours with restaurants/bars and even when they do, the increased foot traffic to their area should outweigh any inconveniences.

For areas that have existing business improvement districts (BIDs), businesses can collaborate and reach a consensus on what makes sense for them (I know for a fact that this conversation is already happening in some neighborhoods). ANCs-who now are operating via virtual meetings-may need to fill that facilitation void in areas where no BIDs exists, and the Mayor/Council’s legislation should simply require ABRA registration (instead of placarding and protesting, similar to off-premises alcohol sales) for any additional outdoor space permitted by DDOT. Any approval for use of space by DDOT or DPR should be streamlined and expedited to focus only on the essential safety issues and ensuring that any temporary measures do not create ADA non-compliant sidewalks.

Tampa and Cincinnati have already announced plans to do this, I’m sure the authorities there would love to share their experiences and implementation strategies. Do this ASAP, as any delay means a loss of real dollars for the industry.

3. Allow Extended Summer Garden / Sidewalk Cafe Hours.

Not only should the amount of outdoor space be expanded for bar/restaurant use, l also urge that the Mayor and DC Council authorize (via ABRA registration) extended outdoor hours temporarily. In many neighborhoods in DC, the patio must close at 11p on weekdays and midnight on weekends (or even earlier) due to ANC settlement agreements. Just like the Mayor and DC Council enacted law that to authorize carryout/delivery alcohol, it would be permitted to supersede the existing limitations in settlement agreements and licenses regarding hours. I’m not suggesting the hours be extended every day, but seems that allowing extended hours on weekends (with no extension for entertainment/live music as a compromise to reduce noise) would be in the long run a minor inconvenience to allow bars/restaurants to earn more revenue to get closer to sustainability.

4. Allow Carryout/Delivery Alcohol from On-Premises Licensees Permanently.

Temporarily allowing carryout and delivery of alcohol has allowed many restaurants/bars to keep open, employing staff and providing some amount of revenue (though certainly not profit in most cases). It is time to make this law permanent. Giving bars/restaurants this flexibility can give their landlords and vendors additional confidence that they will be a long-term sustainable operation.  States with a disparate makeup such as Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana (ok this is not surprising), Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania permanently allow at least some bars/restaurants to sell alcohol to go.

It’s still not clear why it is prohibited-DC’s grocery/convenience/liquor stores that sell alcohol to go will always have the advantage of having a wider variety of beverages and usually sell in more convenient locations and hours.  If DC is worried about open containers, there are surely some mitigation and enforcement measures that can be developed; it doesn’t need to look exactly as it does right now.

5. Provide Clearer Guidelines on How to Operate in COVID-19 World.

As outlined by Washingtonian‘s Anna Spiegel, DC restaurants and bars are currently operating in a fog regarding what happens when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. DC Health does not have clear guidance on what a restaurant should do when this happens. Should they close? How long? What if the employee is front of house v. back of house? These are extremely important questions to answer when things re-open. Restaurants/bars want to operate in good faith, and DC Health providing guidance/rules to operate (although prescriptive rules usually are not desired, in this case, restaurants/bars may welcome at least a decision matrix) will allow owners and staff to focus on implementing these rules rather than trying to do their own research to figure out what to do. This will help bars/restaurants to play close to the same rules, and provide a level of reassurance to the public that public health professionals have made determinations rather than people just trying to figure it out on the Internet.

6. Determine Ways to Spread the Burden So We All Pay Our Fair Share.

Although I do not want to minimize the stress that many white-collar workers have felt (social isolation, juggling childcare/homeschool with work), it is clear that this situation has not financially impacted everyone in the same manner (or at all). I have personally suffered no financial impacts and in fact my expenses have gone down due to most things being closed. However, other people are danger of being wiped out financially or losing their homes depending on how long this goes.

DC is hampered in its ability to provide financial support or breaks (waived license fees, property tax abatements, additional grants, etc.) because it is legally constrained not to spend money it does not have. As a result, it’s important for policymakers to figure out ways to increase revenues.

This may include higher income tax rates and/or additional income tax brackets (currently there is an extremely broad $60,000-$350,000 income bracket in DC, and the next bracket pays only marginal rate of 0.25% more up to $1 million). The DC Policy Center and similar organizations with expertise would be better equipped in providing specifics. I know there’s always fear that rich DC residents will leave in droves, but to where? Those folks will never live down the shame from their rich friends who live in the Upper East Side or Greenwich Village in NYC if they move to Great Falls or Potomac.

I understand this would not be popular-so it would be best to appeal to either the shared sense of responsibility, or if that is not convincing, to explain that, without increased revenues, more establishments will disappear, our neighborhoods would lose much of their vitality, and it would be less enjoyable to live here.

All of these ideas may seem challenging and are certainly a big change from the status quo, but I would not suggest them if I did not feel they were realistic or feasible. DC residents have limited opportunities to participate in the national political process, so we are counting on you to help save our restaurants and bars. 

Submitted for your consideration,

Barred in DC
barredindc@gmail.com

The Cheapest Prepared Food Items For To-Go or Delivery Booze in DC

Colada Shop sells cocktail/empanada combos

During the current crisis, registered bars and restaurants in DC are allowed to sell alcohol to-go or delivery (see rules in other states here) from 7a-midnight daily. This is the expansion on normal rules where only breweries and distilleries (and some grocers) can do this.

However, unlike when ordering from breweries/distilleries, an order w/ booze must be “accompanied by one or more  prepared food items.” ABRA in a helpful FAQ defines this is as “food that has been assembled such as a sandwich, salad, smoothie, etc.” but “pre-packaged items such as chips” don’t count. Note that contrary to some reporting, the prepared food item doesn’t actually have to cost anything, it just has to be part of the order, so no issue with bars just throwing it in for free (though restaurant licensees will want to separately invoice it so they can make sure it counts towards food sales).

Many people believe this requirement is dumb, but it’s not that hard to fulfill. However, sometimes, you might not be hungry but want to support your local bar/restaurant. Here are the cheapest “prepared food” items that bars/restaurants are providing/selling for to-go/pre-packaged delivery (both pickup/delivery available unless otherwise stated). Will update as needed, send me suggestions via DM Twitter @barredindc or barredindc@gmail.com.

No prepared food necessary:

Most breweries/distilleries that are open

Right Proper Brookland, Atlas, Hellbender, Bluejacket, 3 Stars, Red Bear, DC Brau, Supreme Core Cider, Anxo, Republic Restoratives, One Eight, Cotton & Reed, Don Ciccio

Food purchase required with Valor, Farmer & Distillers and apparently with delivery with Capitol Cider House

Included With Order

  • Little Miss Whiskey’s 
    • baked goods (e.g. cookies)
    • tons of cans of beer (mostly $3-4, frozen cocktail slushie (The Awesomeness) ($15)
  • The Eastern(Cap Hill/Eastern Market):
    • servings of olives/mixed nuts automatically included ($2)
    • lots of nice wine bottles
    • pickup only
  • Colada Shop
    • price of drinks include 1 empanada
    • $13 cocktail pouch, beer
  • Kingfisher
    • price includes 1 mayo sandwich (can order more to be donated to DC Central Kitchen and SO Others May Eat
    • Beer and combo kits)
    • Open only Tues and Fri.

50 Cents

  • Acqua al 2
    • “Prepared Food Item of the day”: 50 cent popcorn as an example
    • Employee Relief Fund Inventory School Basically bottles of booze; extensive pantry selection.
    • Delivery 1-7p M-Sat. Pickup 1-5p M-Sat (48-72 hours in advance)
  • The Dirty Goose
    • 50 cent chocolate chip cookie
    • Lots of cocktails (including large format and frozen), and other stuff
    • Pickup daily

$1

  • The Midlands Beer Garden
    • $1 two bite, handmade chocolate truffle; $3 savory cheesy waffle; $3 beer braised brat
    • Lots of craft beer growlers ($23 mostly for 64 oz.); $10 double cocktails, $12 couches, $40 32 oz marg/lemon drop in jug, $60 barrel aged manhattan
    • pickup Th-Sun only
  • Maxwell Park Shaw/Navy Yard
    • $1 2.5 oz hummus from Albi
    • Lots of fancy wine bottles
    • once a week Thursday pickups and $100/min deliveries
  • Hill Prince
    • $1 quart of popcorn
    • $25 pint/cocktail, $45 quart cocktail, $15 bottle of wine.
    • DM IG for pickup only.
  • The Board Room DC
    • $1 baked goods (lots of cookies and other treats)
    • large format cocktails, beer, and other booze.
    • Front window open for pickup usually weekday afternoons. Delivery available. Email delivery.boardroomdc@gmail.com for more details
  • Dio Wine Bar
    • $1 spiced nuts or marinated olives from Odd Provisions
    • lots of natural wine bottles
    • closed Mon
  • Number Nine
    • $1 popcorn
    • $14 wine bottle, $3 beer/ $12 6 packs, $32 4-person cocktail batches, $9 standard cocktails
    • closed M-W
  • TRADE
    • $1 deconstructed grilled cheese
    • $5 beer/seltzer / $12 6 packs, $32 4-person cocktail batches, $9 standard cocktails
    • closed M-W
  • The Blaguard
    • $1 cheese sandwich (pickup only from carryout stand)
    • lots of 16 oz beer ($4) or 32 oz ($8)
    • closed Mon

$2

  • McClelland’s Retreat 
    • $2 popcorn (6 different toppings), $3 hot dog of the week
    • Fancy cocktails, some wine bottles, 4/6 pack of beer.
    • Pickup only Tue-Sat
  • Cusbah
    • $2 rice; $3 naan/roti
    • mostly $10 cocktails or $45 serves 5-6. Some cheap canned craft beer options
  • Ivy and Coney
    • $2 ballpark hot dogs
    • $2 cans of ok beer, $3 of craft beer,$3 shots, $24 bottle of Malort/other liquor, $4 wine cans
    • Pickup only, closed M-Tues

$3

  • Tico
    • $3 taco (supposedly $0.25 chips, but can’t find)
    • Marg ($7 single/$30 pitcher); Sangrai ($5 single/$20 pitcher
  • Right Proper Shaw
    • if you want to buy cocktails, food purchase required
    • $3 great potato chips

 

THIS IS NOT A DRILL – Beered in DC Available from Right Proper #ByDCForDC

 

Beered in DC, the collaboration beer between the DC Metro region’s recently crowned favorite brewery, Right Proper Brewing Company, Barred in DC, and Lost Lagers,  is available for purchase from both the Shaw brewpub (walk-in or order on Toast Tab for pickup) and the Brookland production facility (walk-in or order online for pickup and delivery) beginning 4p, today, Friday, May 1st. More details on how this came to be here.

Brewed #ByDCForDC, this beer was born from the votes of Barred in DC’s followers This 5.5% copper saison is not too bitter, not too sweet and just enough flowery, ester-driven yeast character to compliment the Czech and German hops that round out the rye, oats, and barley in the mash. Available in $9 (w/ tax) 500 mL (16.9 oz) bottles  #teamsaison

Limited availability at the FRESHFARM Market Brookland Saturday FRESHFARM Market Dupont Sunday. Available for delivery now for Delivery beginning Tuesday ($25 min, within 5 miles in DC only).

In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Barred in DC, Thanks to Bobby Bump (head brewer of Right Proper), Mike Stein (Lost Lagers), and our two Golden Ticket winners who helped make the beer (Kelsey M. and Matt. S).

A release party was scheduled for late March, but it has been postponed indefinitely for some reason. Hope to celebrate with you some day but this is still awesome.  Zoom happy hour details to come so make sure you buy at least two!

Right Proper Shaw: Pickup available Noon-7p Sun-Thurs, Noon-9p Fri-Sat (curbside pickup available), walk-in or order on Toast Tab for pickup

Right Proper Brookland: Pickup available (Noon-6p Fri-Sun); Delivery (noon-3p Tues-Fri; order by 10a for same day delivery, $25 order min-i.e. 3 bottles, 5 mile radius within DC), walk-in or order online for pickup and delivery