Bars and restaurants in DC must comply with a host of rules issued by Mayor Bowser and her administration in normal pre-pandemic times and now must follow even more in order to stay open during Phase 2. Those enforced by ABRA relatively more harshly (per policy) include: 1) being open past midnight, 2) selling alcohol without offering food or requiring food purchase per table 3) having entertainment including live bands and DJs, 4) mandatory staff masking, and 5) patrons seated at the bar or ordering at the bar where a bartender is working (I explain the rationale here). In addition, DC Health has enforced some of these prohibitions sporadically, including the prohibition against hookah/cigar bars can (note that most hookah smoking indoors in DC bars is generally illegal pre-pandemic but DC Health has never enforced).
The alcohol investigators in ABRA have made tons of visits, either routine inspections or in response to complaints, to most open establishments since beginning of Phase 2 in mid June, formally dinging nearly 130 spots (as of 10/5; roughly 10% of DC’s bars and restaurants with liquor licenses) with verbal or written warnings, $1000 or $2000 fines, and referrals to the ABC Board or the DC Office of Attorney General for action. A little over 30 of these spots (as of 10/5) have received a fine or worse so far, including some that have been shut down. Generally, the ABC’s current resolution of punishment is to allow all those suspended to get their license back after serving a 15 day suspension (10 days held in abeyance for another year triggered if more violations) and explicitly agreeing to all of the Phase 2 restrictions (see example here). The list below includes those shut down at least temporarily.
Note: It must be noted that (as of 10/5) out of the ~32 spots that have been fined, suspended, or potentially face stricter punishment from ABRA, roughly at least 75% serve a mostly Black or Latino clientele, and many are also owned/operated by people of color. Many have argued these statistics clearly show racially biased enforcement by ABRA, given that DC’s population is less than 40% non-Hispanic white. In an enforcement system driven a great deal by complaints (not all, I know the investigators / inspectors make the rounds regularly in nightlife areas and do proactive monitoring where they can), this is unfortunately not an unexpected outcome. People who live in neighborhoods where bars are, now often majority white, may think twice about complaining about an establishment they frequent (or will reach out to management to give them a heads up to note their complaints). But if the bar’s clientele or management comes mostly from outside the immediate neighborhood, neighbors lack affinity to the bar (or worse, are openly hostile already due to racism, subconscious or not) and, thus won’t try to resolve these informally. In addition, the types of rules that ABRA emphasized enforcement on, though I don’t want to generalize too much here, may also disproportionately end up affecting spots that generally cater to people of color. Beer gardens (frequented disproportionately by white people), though many have drawn long lines and big crowds, are often not as focused on standing at bars and DJs, and are geared to daytime drinking; since violations like the 6 feet rule are not punished as harshly, spots like these don’t get dinged badly. Finally, due to structural racism, in general (although most bars/restaurants don’t have much of a financial cushion), there may be less capital, financial support, and connection to networks that make people either take risks or not be aware of the rules. That all being said, almost all spots being fined are either being warned before or are committing exceptionally egregious violations of the more important Phase 2 restrictions to help keep the community safe. Most of these spots are operating like a full-on bar/lounge/club with DJs and drinking at the bar- things that the bar have full control of and have been hammered home since late June that are not allowed because of their documented harm in other parts of U.S. which have liberalized bar rules. I think you should take all of this into context as you take a look at this list.
Last Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Shut Down (Temporarily unless otherwise noted; still can be open but cannot serve alcohol);
- Charcoal Town Hookah (Georgetown)
- Closed by DC Health for hookah smoking & not enforcing patron mask rule June 30-July 2
- Closed by DC Health for hookah smoking September 17-September 18
- District Soul Food (Barracks Row)
- Closed by DC Health for unspecified Mayor’s Order public health emergency violation (possibly hookah smoking) July 16-17
- ABC Board issued summary indefinite suspension Oct 8th, effective on Oct 10th
- Violations (6 times early July to late Sept): employees not wearing masks, patrons not wearing masks, open after midnight, music not at conversational level, patrons not socially distant, interference with investigation, allowed DJ
- Will be reinstated after serving 30 day liquor license suspension Oct 10-Nov 8, with additional 30 days in abeyance for a year
- Cafe 8 (Barracks Row)
- Closed by DC Health for hookah smoking July 21-22
- SIP Lounge (Woodridge)
- Closed by DC Health for hookah smoking July 24-31
- Lyve at U (U Street)
- ABC Board issued summary suspension August 5th effective August 7th
- Violations (once on 7/31): patrons not socially distant, patrons not seated, DJ
- Appears to be still suspended.
- Elevate Lounge (NoMa)
- ABC Board issued summary suspension August 12th effective August 14th
- Violations (3 before settlement, 1 after): music not at a conversation level, employees not wearing masks, patrons not seated, DJ, patrons not social distant
- Reinstated after agreeing in legal settlement agreement to adhere to Phase 2 restrictions in exchange for a14 day suspension (Aug 14-Aug 27) and $1000 fine. Another $2000 fine incurred a month after reinstatement
- Empire Lounge (Shaw)
- ABC Board issued summary suspension effective September 4th AND again on September 30th
- Violations (5 before settlement, 1 after): music not at a conversational level, patrons not seated, afterhours service, no prepared food sold with alcohol, employees not waring masks, patrons not socially distant, DJ
- Reinstated for first time after agreeing in legal settlement agreement to adhere to Phase 2 restrictions in exchange for a 15 day suspension (Sept 4-Sept 17) and $1000 fine. $2000 fine incurred a month after reinstatement
- Appears to be still suspended.
- Luna Restaurant (Brightwood Park/16th St Heights)
- ABC Board issued summary suspension effective September 11th (appears to be a combination of other issues as well)
- Violations (2): after hours service, interference with investigation, patrons seated at staffed bar, patrons not socially distant, DJ
- Reinstated after agreeing in legal settlement effective Agreement to adhere to Phase 2 restrictions (and other security related issues since this dealt with other issues) in exchange for a 30 day suspension (Sept 11th-October 12)
- MK Lounge (Shaw)
- Suspended by ABC Board on September 16th effective September 18th
- Violations (5): patrons not socially distant, music not at a conversational level, patrons standing at staffed bar, patrons not seated, indoor occupancy over 50%, after hours service
- Reinstated after agreeing in legal settlement agreement to adhere to Phase 2 restrictions in exchange for 15 day suspension starting (September 18th-October 4th). Additional 10 suspension days held in abeyance for another year.
- Booeymonger Restaurant (Georgetown) –
- Suspended by ABC Board on September 23th effective September 25th
- Violations (2): patrons not seated, patrons not socially distant, music not at a conversational level, patrons not wearing masks, no prepared food with alcohol, table spacing insufficient, no reservation system
- Appears to be still suspended.
- Felicity Lounge (H Street)
- Suspended by ABC Board on September 30th effective October 2nd
- Violations (4): Music not at a conversational level, patrons not seated, DJ, patrons standing at a staffed bar, no reservation system, patrons not social distant, patrons not wearing masks, indoor occupancy more than 50%,
- Reinstated after agreeing in legal settlement agreement to adhere to Phase 2 restrictions in exchange for a 15 day suspension (Oct 2nd-October 17th). Additional 10 suspension days held in abeyance for another year.