Author Archives: Barred in DC

Aslin’s 14th Street Beer Garden Resolves ANC and Neighbor Protest – On Track to Open This Summer

Aslin Beer Company, which originated in Northern Virginia in 2015 and had a temporary popup in a vacant lot across from the Nats Park a few years back, has resolved a protest of its application for a liquor license for its new beer garden coming to the southwest corner of 14th and S St. NW, and reportedly hopes to open by early summer.

According to Brian Romanowski, ANC commissioner in the area, Aslin has agreed to close the beer garden at 11p on weekday nights and midnight on weekends, with a total occupancy of 203 outdoors and 47 indoors (for a total of 250 to include some standing?). “Lots of noise mitigation as part of the deal!” said Romanowski.

The same site was part of a failed attempt to open a beer garden by Dacha in 2017. Dacha tried to open a beer garden for 600. A protest followed and ABRA said the bar could have a total occupancy of 200 (150 outdoors) with outdoor closing hours the same as the ones granted to Aslin (with 1:30a/2:30a closing for indoors). Dacha thought the cut in occupancy made it not worth it and abandoned the project. Aslin ended up with a slightly larger capacity.

Read Eater (May 2021), Washingtonian (May 2021) and UrbanTurf (November 2021) for more details and renderings of the project. Owing to its former location of a gas station, the working title of the beer garden was Aslin Filling Station last May, but that name has not been officially filed with ABRA as of yet. Another beer garden, Garden District, is on the northeast corner of the same intersection.

Biergarten Haus – Das Reboot

New Biergarten Haus Sign

Biergarten Haus, the popular H Street beer garden, temporarily closed on February 14th for renovations. When it reopens the week of March 7th, Barred in DC has exclusively learned that many things will be quite different, not just the new sign that was installed earlier this year. The pleasant, convivial beer garden atmosphere that has been a fixture since May 2010 remains out back (both on ground level and the roof deck), but patrons will see many new things including the following:

  • A new upgraded menu (owner Aaron McGovern told Barred in DC expect the menu to be sort of a cross of Brasserie Beck and Old Ebbitt Grill – think steak, fish, French dip sandwiches, though some German favorites will remain).
  • German beer will move from essentially 100% of the taps to 25% of taps, with American craft beer (so yes, there will be IPAs on draft)
  • New tap system and draft lines. Nitrogen so that growlers (which will be for available for sale) can be filled properly.
  • A completely renovated main bar area (see pic below, new flooring and many other features)
  • A new 50(ish) seat dining room (“The Lodge”) with fresh cocktails where the rarely-used bar next to the ground floor beer garden was previously located. Includes stone fireplace. There will be elk antler light fixtures
  • A few private cabins (air conditioned if needed with their own TVs)
  • The upstairs “Elk Bar” will be open daily with regular weekly event/programming, trivia will move here on Tuesdays, live musical act (cover tunes) already booked for every Wednesday for a year. Possibly trying to attract Formula 1 groups and other supporters groups
  • New tables built around trees in the ground floor beer garden (at least one has already been built)
  • Renovated bathrooms

McGovern said that while the spot has remained successful, he thought it needed to evolve to continue it to be successful – noting the proliferation of beer gardens in DC since it opened 12 years ago. He recognized that some regulars and fans may be skittish when they read about these changes, he thinks they’ll be happy when they see how it ends up.

The first floor bar being completely gutted
One of the new private cabins (the picture had a weird zoom, there’s plenty of space for a table)
Some of the new color scheme in first floor bar
Existing Elk Bar

Lost Generation Brewing Company Coming to Eckington Along the MBT

This may or may not be the actual logo (from a Facebook page I found that was launched Jan 1st)

This post has been updated on February 12, 2022 with details from co-owner/head brewer

Barred in DC has learned that a new brewery, Lost Generation Brewing Company, is coming to the edge of the Eckington neighborhood at 327 S Street NE. The ABRA ABC Board approved the brewery’s application for a manufacturer license on Wednesday (see page 16 of PDF). An application for a brewery certificate of occupancy has also been applied for, and they’re aiming to open late summer (presumably August or September) 2022. Construction starts on Valentine’s Day.

The historic warehouse (dating over 100 years) at 327 S St. NE (2 blocks north of the Alethia Tanner Park) is adjacent to the popular Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT, multi-use but mostly bikes), and housed a former Nabisco bakery and distribution hub. The 34,000 square foot building was bought for $5.6 million in 2017, with owner’s plans to “renovate the building into small-bay spaces, creating a hub for arts collective food makers” according to the Washington Business Journal. Currently, one of the spaces is occupied by the 3,000 square foot private venue The Sun Room, from the Salt & Sundry folks.

Based on corporate filings and a USPTO trademark application, I figured out that the brewery is co-owned by local resident Jared Pulliam and his wife Anne Choe. After publishing this post initially on Friday, Feb. 11th, I was able to connect with Jared and obtain lots of great details (more verbatim below) for the new spot.

Both Jared and Anne are DC area natives, the latter has always worked in restaurants and bars-mostly in the role as manager. On the other hand, Jared started as a high school teacher (teaching mostly AP Psychology and Modern American Culture, as well as US History and Government), started homebrewing as a hobby and then got a side job at Chocolate City Brewing (the DC brewery was open 2011-2014 just up the MBT in the building that now houses Dew Drop Inn). Jared says “I’d shut down my classroom in the afternoon, pack my bags with all the papers that needed grading and head to the brewery to fire it up. I’d usually bang out my grading during the lauter. Then around midnight, I’d shut it down and try to get a few hours of sleep before doing it all again.” Realizing this was not the ideal situation, they decided that Jared should go full time into brewing, and most inspired at the time by IPAs, he got a job at Lagunitas Brewing Company in California and eventually rose to Lead Brewer (overseeing all 3 branches of production plant and helping develop the recipe for their first Hazy IPA). Wanting to realize their dream of starting a brewery in the DC area, they moved back here; the pandemic put their plans on hold, so he took a job as head brewer at Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

As for the brewery itself, the space will take up nearly 5,000 square feet-roughly half devoted to the taproom and the other half for the brewing area (divided by a window wall). They will focus on IPAs and Lagers (author’s note: YES!) but with 16 taps there will still be variety. The brewery’s business will be primarily based on the taproom-they have some distribution points lined up but mostly will sell beer on tap (glass, crowlers) and cans from the taproom itself. Anne is working to make the space “more like an awesome bar than a cold corner in a brewery“; the mostly brick and exposed wood roof (which will they keep natural) will provide a great vibe.

The name Lost Generation is referring to the artists and intellectuals of the 1920s/30s who were disillusioned and moved elsewhere to places like Paris (Jared is a self-described “literary snob”). This phrase also evokes prohibition which coincided roughly in the same time frame. Jared further says “my great grandfather owned an auto shop right off L Street in Mt. Vernon Square called Owl Garage where he installed suped up suspension kits on rum runners so they wouldn’t show their weight as they snuck kegs into the city from PG County.” (here’s hoping they can pay some homage to this garage-which was at 6th and L NW and open 24 hours/day-in the brewery).

Some online sleuthing has scoped out a potential Facebook page (see logo above) launched Jan 1st, expect the website to go live later this month,

Lost Generation will join City-State Brewing in Edgewood (about 3/4 miles north) as MBT breweries, with Right Proper Brookland, Red Bear Brewing, and the new DC location of Crooked Run Fermentation (also broken by Barred in DC following a ABRA approval) in the vicinity as well.

Full Email Details Below

First off, one small edit is that I am only co-owner of Lost Generation Brewing Co. Anne Choe, who is also my wife, is the other equal owner. We are both area natives. She has always worked in restaurants and bars, mostly managing them. I on the other hand started as a high school teacher, but found a serious hobby in brewing and when an opportunity opened up for me to start working at Chocolate City Brewing (a now defunct brewery that opened the same year as D.C. Brau), I did. I’d shut down my classroom in the afternoon, pack my bags with all the papers that needed grading and head to the brewery to fire it up. I’d usually bang out my grading during the lauter. Then around midnight, I’d shut it down and try to get a few hours of sleep before doing it all again. To say the least, this wasn’t the best scenario. We decided that it would be best for me to leave teaching and go full time brewing, but if we were going to do it, we were going to go all in. At the time, the D.C. area didn’t have nearly the robust brewing culture it does now and so we looked to go somewhere with strong roots in brewing the style that we were most inspired by, IPA. So California it was. I got the job at Lagunitas in Petaluma and quickly rose to their Lead Brewer which meant I oversaw all three branches of the production plant and did all the hiring, training and managing of it as well as some of the recipe development for creating their first Hazy IPA brand. It was an awesome experience and an awesome crew. But at the end of the day, we always dreamt of coming home and opening up the brewery we always wished had been here back when we were living in D.C. With my decade of brewing and her rich front of house experience, we knew it was time to come home and make it happen.

The space is divided into two: a nearly 2500sqft taproom and an almost equal sized brewing area, divided only by a window wall, so it’s still one large open space. Our beer focus is IPA and lagers, but really, we love making and drinking good beer, no matter the style. We will have 16 taps, so there will be a good amount of variety. Our focus is the taproom. We have some hand selected distribution points that we will be going to at first, but for the most part, we’ll be sell our beer by the glass, crowler and can inside the taproom, which Anne has worked diligently on crafting a space that will feel more like an awesome bar than a cold corner in a brewery. (It doesn’t hurt that the Nabisco space is mostly brick and exposed wood roof, which we’ve left completely natural.)

Lastly, as far as timing, we’re starting construction on Monday and we hope to be serving refreshing cold one’s to people on the MBT late summer. You, included.

Calvert was once I came back to the area. Due to the pandemic, we had to put our plan on hold, so in the meantime, I took the job at Calvert to help them transform and reimagine their brand a little bit.

I taught AP Psychology and Modern American Culture, mostly. But also US History and Government.

We have been working on this for years now. We probably had our first concept art sketched up 5 years ago? And Anne and I have been dreaming of it since we’ve been together, which was 12 years ago.

Lost Generation refers to the group of artists and intellectuals of the 1920’s and 30’s which includes Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, etc… But just folks who were disillusioned with the culture of where they were and moved to places such as Paris to find invigoration and inspiration. For us, that was California. On top of that, during that same period of time, alcohol was clearly the leading topic of discussion due to prohibition. In fact, during that time, my great grandfather owned an auto shop right off L Street in Mt. Vernon Square called Owl Garage where he installed suped up suspension kits on rum runners so they wouldn’t show their weight as they snuck kegs into the city from PG County. Also, I’m a literary snob, so the Lost Generation period is just something I adore.

DC Suspends The Big Board’s Liquor License

Photo by tipster

Updated Jan 29, 2022 to add a timeline

On Friday afternoon, DC officially suspended the liquor license of H Street neighborhood burger bar, The Big Board, for multiple violations of legal requirements regarding masking of staff and checking for proof of vaccination in a 9 day period.

The ABC Board issued a summary suspension of their liquor license (meaning there was no hearing); the bar can request a hearing within 3 days, in which the case the hearing should be held next week.

The bar appears to be still open serving food and soft drinks (which it legally can do) but not serving alcohol (BYOB not permitted).

In Phase 2, almost 20 DC bars or restaurants were issued a similar summary suspension. Most settled with the Government and were eventually suspended 15 days, though this increased later in Phase 2 to 30-40 days.

TIMELINE

  • May 10, 2021: Mayor Bowser announces that virtually all restrictions on businesses and restaurants/bars will be lifted on May 21st, with the exception of the mask mandate indoors only. Certain types of nightclubs and bars continue to be restricted at 50% capacity until June 11.
  • May 11, 2021: The Big Board (TBB) posts to its social media accounts the #ReOpenDC logo and the message:
    • “As a Big Board patron over the last year you know how seriously we’ve taken covid guidelines & restrictions. With majority of U.S. residents having vax access, including our staff, we fully support the 100% reversal of restrictions to pre covid levels! We believe its the right thing to do & trust our patrons to make the right choices of when to dine with us or stay home! … We encourage other restaurants and businesses to post similar support for reopening!”
  • May 13, 2021: CDC updates its guidance to state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically/socially distance indoors or outdoors.
  • May 17, 2021: DC lifts indoor mask mandate in most situations (technically for fully vaccinated only).
  • May 21, 2021: Virtually all restrictions on businesses and restaurants/bars lifted, with the exception of 50% capacity in certain types of nightclubs and bars.
  • June 11, 2021: All restrictions on DC businesses lifted.
  • July 27, 2021: CDC updates it guidance (due to “rapid and alarming rise” in cases/hospitalizations, and the increased infectiousness/transmissibility of Delta, even with vaccinated) to now recommend everyone (including fully vaccinated) in areas of substantial or high transmission (roughly over 50/cases daily for DC) to wear a mask in public indoor places.
  • July 29, 2021: DC announces that the indoor mask mandate is reinstated.
  • July 31, 2021: The DC indoor mask mandate is reinstated. Because of the trickiness of enforcing mask mandates on customers when people can stand, eat, drink, the ABRA regulations require only that staff are masked at all times when indoors and that patrons wear a mask when entering.
  • August 3, 2021: NYC announces that it will be the first US city to require at least one vaccine for indoor dining and other indoor venues, effective August 16th. San Francisco follows the next week (New Orleans and Honolulu also do, but allows negative test)
  • October 6, 2021: Los Angeles announces vaccine requirement effective November 8, 2021.
  • November 16, 2021: Mayor Bowser announces that the indoor mask mandate will be ending in most places (though DC is still in the range of cases where CDC still recommends universal masking)
  • November 21, 2021: The DC indoor mask mandate is lifted.
  • December 2, 2021: DC Health issues indoor mask advisory.
  • December 13, 2021: Philadelphia announces vaccine requirement effective January 3rd, with no test out option January 17th
  • December 20, 2021: Mayor Bowser announces reinstatement of the DC indoor mask mandate. Boston announces vaccine requirement effective January 15th.
  • December 21, 2021: The DC indoor mask mandate is reinstated. Chicago announces vaccine requirement effective January 3rd.
  • December 22, 2021: Mayor Bowser announces that DC will be imposing a citywide vaccine entry requirement for indoor dining, gyms, and other indoor venues, effective January 15th.
  • January 13, 2022: The Supreme Court effectively blocks the Federal Government (OSHA) from requiring vaccinations (or tests) for all employees of companies with 100 or more employees, ruling that OSHA lacked the statutory authority to issue the mandate. Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence makes clear that “states and local governments” are not prohibited from issuing vaccine mandates, as they “possess considerable power to regulate public health.”
  • January 13, 2022: The Big Board posts on Twitter (not on Facebook or Instagram):
    • “There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor” on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else… Stranger in a Strange Land”
    • “As has always been the case for us, everyone is welcome. This rule applies yesterday, today and tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll see you January 16th.”
  • January 14, 2022: ABRA investigator visits The Big Board and speaks to the owner who says “repeatedly told her that the establishment would not comply with the vaccination requirements.” ABRA issues a verbal warning because staff not wearing masks
  • January 15, 2022: Vaccine requirement goes into effect. ABRA visits The Big Board, observing staff not wearing masks, patrons entering not wearing masks, no one verifying vaccination status, and no sign posted about vaccine requirements. The Big Board’s owner, in response to a statement that masks are required to be worn by staff, states “Until the Mayor change[s] her mind on the orders, I am not going to change mine.” ABRA issues 1) written warning for the mask issues and a 2) verbal warning for failure to check for vax proof.
  • January 18, 2022: ABRA visits The Big Board and fines it $1,000 for not following mask requirements and issues a written warning for not checking for vax proof.
  • January 19, 2022: Daily Caller reporter Henry Rodgers starts GoFundMe (after friend jokingly suggests that they should start one) for bar that as of Jan 29th has raised $17,000
  • January 20, 2022: ABRA visits The Big Board and fines it $1,000 for not following mask and vaccine requirements
  • January 21, 2022: Department of Health finds The Big Board not in compliance with the mask and vaccine requirements.
  • January 22, 2022: ABRA again visits The Big Board and finds them not in compliance with the mask and vaccine requirements. It sends the results of their investigation to the ABC Board for further review.
  • January 26, 2022: The ABC Board votes to issue a summary suspension of The Big Board’s liquor license without a hearing.
  • January 28, 2022: After the Office of Attorney General drafts a notice of summary suspension, the Board signs it and it is issued at 4pm, suspending their license immediately. The Big Board continues to serve food, but no alcohol is allowed to be sold, served, or consumed.
    • The ABC Board said that The Big Board’s “operations … present an imminent danger to the health and safety of the public” due to its “repeated non-compliance” with 3 Mayor’s orders and the ABRA regulations that were amended in accordance with those orders. The Board said that The Big Board’s “violations represent a method of operation that places the public in imminent danger to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The repeated occurrence of the establishment’s violations and failure, unwillingness or disobedience by the owner and the establishment’s employees to comply or require compliance further exacerbates the imminent danger to the health and safety of the public.”
  • February 2, 2022: Deadline for The Big Board to request a hearing with the ABC Board.
  • February 4, 2022: The last day a hearing would be held if a timely request was made.

DC’s Top Dishes

A terrible cropped photo taken by the author of DC’s near consensus top dish – Rasika’s Palak Chaat

After Virginia Senator Tim Kaine was stranded on I-95 in the early January 2022 snowstorm for over a day (with scores of others), he went to dinner with his family to Bloomingdale’s The Red Hen and tweeted that he had their very popular rigatoni with sausage. This inspired Rob Flaherty, Digital Director for the White House to note that it was one DC’s top 5 dishes, which in turned inspired a Barred in DC thread and subsequent polls to figure out which dishes you thought were DC’s top (or essential dishes).

Here’s a list (totally based on popularity) – these are all essential eats:

(% of those who’ve had the dish who said it was one of DC’s top dishes)

  1. Rasika Palak Chaat (West End, Penn Quarter) (69%) $12, crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind, date chutney. 49% of all those polled said this was one of DC’s top dishes. Next closest was 32%.
  2. Rose’s Luxury Pork and Lychee Salad (Barracks Row) (63%) Part of choose-your-own prixe fixe menu ($75 Tues-Th, $85 Fri-Sat). Dine-In only
  3. Mangialardo’s “G” Man Sub (Capitol Hill) (61%) $9.75, Ham, salami, mortadella, pepperoni, fontina cheese, provolone cheese, oregano on hard or soft roll. 9a-2:30p M-F only
  4. The Red Hen Rigatoni (Bloomingdale) (56%) $22, mezzi rigatoni, tomato, garlic, fennel sausage ragu, fennel pollen, pecorino romano.
  5. Thip Khao Naem Khao (Columbia Heights) (47%). $16 (+$2 sour pork), crispy coconut rice salad, peanut, lime, scallion, scallion, cilantro, green lettuce wraps. Often special versions.
  6. Compass Rose Khachapuri (14th Street/U Street) (46%) $16, cheese-filled bread, organic egg, butter, za’atar
  7. St. Anselm Buttermilk Biscuits (Union Market Area) (45%) $11, with pimento cheese
  8. Roaming Rooster Fried Chicken Sandwich (Woodridge, U St, Tenleytown, Foggy Bottom) (43%), $10, several variations of a buttermilk fried chicken breast sandwich (OG Nashville or Honey Butter is way to go
  9. Rose’s Luxury Cacio e pepe (Barracks Row) (40%) – Not currently on menu
  10. Dukes Grocery Proper Burger (Dupont, Foggy Bottom, Woodley Park/Cleveland Park) (38%) $15, creekstone farms angus, melted gouda, pickles, charred red onion, sweet chili sauce, rocket, garlic aioli on brioche
  11. Cane Jerk Wings (H Street) (36%) $13, 12-hour marinated and pimento-smoked
  12. Granville Moore’s Mussels (H Street) (33%) $21 ($12 at Sunday dinner), several different varieties, known for the Bleu
  13. St. Anselm Salmon Collar (Union Market) (31%) $19, with lemon and garlic butter
  14. Ben’s Chili Bowl Original Half-Smoke (U Street, H Street) (21%), $7.69, suggested with mustard, onions, and homemade spicy chili sauce

Check the links above-there were nearly 200 dishes mentioned, rarely multiple times.

Crooked Run Fermentation Coming to Union Market Area

Crooked Run Fermentation logo

The Union Market “District” is getting a brewery, Barred in DC has learned*. Crooked Run Fermentation, which first opened in Leesburg, Virginia in 2013 and then a second location in Sterling in 2017, is taking the long trip from the exurbs to the city, and will be opening a 3rd location (likely later in 2022) in the 550 Morse apartment building located across the parking lot from Union Market (a short block northeast of Florida Ave NE between 5th and 6th).

DC approved their liquor license in late December, and it appears that some brewing will be done on site based on the nature of their license (see below). A direct message to the brewery seeking additional details has not yet been responded to.

ABRA records on approval

This isn’t the first brewery-related spot in the immediate neighborhood – The Bruery Store (which sells cans, bottles and draft to go) made offsite by the California brewery has been across the street since Jan 2018. Within walking distance-Red Bear Brewing is just 1/3 mile away in NoMa, and just over a mile away sits Other Half and Atlas in Ivy City. The legendary Italian deli A. Litteri sits across the street.

* By clicking on a public document posted on a website.

How Does VaxDC, DC’s New Vaccine Mandate, Compare to Other Cities and other FAQ

Applicable Businesses Will Need To Display a Sign Like This Starting Jan 15th

Updated Jan 3rd following DC Health Guidance and DMPED Townhall

As first reported/predicted/expected by Barred in DC Tuesday, on Wednesday December 22nd, DC finally announced the vaccine mandate many have been clamoring for since early August.

This “city-wide vaccination entry requirement,” termed VaxDC by the DC government, will require customers, visitors, and patrons (but not staff) age 12 and over to be vaccinated, starting Saturday, January 15, 2022 (full vax Tuesday, February 15th), in the following indoor establishments: indoor eating/drinking, cultural/entertainment, exercise/recreational , and event/meeting spaces. DC is the 11th major US city to announce a vaccine mandate like this one.

Details on how this will work are contained in the Mayor’s situational update and order), as well as DC Health’s guidance. In the meantime, I’ll compare DC’s new announced mandate with the other 10 cities who’ve implemented or announced one, and answer other good questions I’ve seen.

What Major US Cities Have Announced a Vaccine Mandate?

  • Already Implemented: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia
  • Announced: Boston, Oakland, Washington DC
  • Vax or Mask Mandate: Rest of NY State, Denver, Philly (for non-dining facilities)
  • Many of the surrounding suburbs of these cities also have similar mandates.

Which Indoor Facilities Will Vax Proof Be Required?

  • Indoor Dining/Drinking: Restaurants, taverns, bars, nightclubs, hookah/cigar bars, coffee shops, fast-food spots with seating, breweries, winery/distillery tasting rooms, food halls/courts, and other mixed-used facilitiies
    • All Vax Mandate Cities Include These
  • Indoor Entertainment: sporting venues, music/concert venues, live entertainment (theater) venues, movie theaters, strip clubs, bowling alleys
    • All Vax Mandate Cities Appear to Include These (some only if they serve food/drink)
  • Indoor Exercise/Recreation: gyms, exercise facilities, dance/yoga/pilates, other group fitness class
    • Philadelphia does not have a vaccine mandate for these facilities, but because it has a mask or vax mandate, many gyms already require vaccines so patrons don’t have to wear masks.
  • Indoor Event/Meeting: Hotel meeting rooms/other common rooms, banquet halls, conference centers, convention center, auditoriums, shared work facilities but only when hosting events. But not private meeting spaces in office buildings.
    • Philly only requires vax mandate if food served
  • Any other Place When Temporarily Doing One of the Above
    • Examples: renting a church for a non-religious concert, a bookstore hosts a seated book talk

Generally (but not exclusively), DC chose places “where people will be closely congregated for a prolonged period of time.”

What About Takeout or Going to the Bathroom If Outdoor Seating?

  • Not required to show vax proof if “only briefly entering” for a “quick and limited purpose” (e.g., takeout order, picking up order, making a delivery, use restroom). Will likely get more details and examples in future.
    • All Vax Mandate Cities Appear To Include These Types of Exemptions.
      • Honolulu and Chicago put a 10 minute time limit.
      • SF/Oakland/Boston/NYC allow repair folks to come in without showing proof

What Are Covered Businesses Required to Do?

  • Prominently post signage at entrances, such as on door or window (see above for example)
  • Verify vaccination.
  • Expected to use best efforts, but not expected to be sleuths/detectives and do anything else to verify whether proof is real
  • More Details to Come by COB Thursday, December 30th
  • Biz must check proof at “the entry point or at the first point of contact between the customer and a staff member”
    • Like most cities
    • Seattle at least allows gyms to keep a record of vax status and not require it to be shown each time.
    • Chicago allows event planners to handle verification
  • CHANGE from previously reported: Businesses will be required to check adults (18+) IDs against vax proof
    • Most cities require adults (or 16+) to show ID as well as verification of vax.
    • Seattle doesn’t require ID even for adults saying “In our stakeholder engagement, we received feedback that ID checks are associated with trauma stemming from racist and discriminatory practices, plus can lead to distrust for many communities.”

What Can Visitors Show For Proof of Entry?

  • Original CDC vax card
    • Please don’t do that. No need to carry that around in case it gets lost
  • Photocopy of CDC vax card
  • Photo of CDC vax card
  • Immunization Record Print Out from Patient Portal
  • COVID-19 Verification App, such as
    • VaxYes (Free, upload pic of vax card, get digital certificate)
    • CLEAR (Free, can link to your patient portal or upload card)
  • DC MyIR Mobile (PDF or printout presumably, asked about during press conference)

Over 80% of you typically show a photo or some other electronic proof.

So, this Applies to Staff of These Establishments, Right?

Uh, no.

What, seriously?

DC officials deflected questions about this at the first press conference. During the DMPED Town Hall, Deputy Mayor John Falccichio stated that DC leadership was very supportive of the Biden Administration’s efforts to require larger employers to require vax or weekly testing and that they were closely monitoring the litigation-implying that DC wanted to avoid litigation and may follow with an employee mandate if the Federal requirement is upheld by the Supreme Court.

In addition, based on debates in other cities, this likely boils down to staffing-in the hospitality field for example, there is a labor shortage.

To my surprise, many other cities did not include this requirement:

Vax Required for Staff: NYC, LA (nightclubs/lounges/breweries/wineries/distilleries only), Philly, Boston, SF (deadline was 2 months later than customers)
Vax or Weekly Negative Test Required for Staff: Chicago, Honolulu, New Orleans
No Requirement: DC, LA (restaurants and non-bars no requirement), Seattle (strongly recommended), Oakland

Can I show a Negative COVID Test Result Instead?

  • No. Unless you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation for medical/religious reasons (see more below)
  • Most cities don’t have the negative test option (except for reasonable accommodations) except these places:
    • Seattle: negative test w/in 72 hours (can’t be a self test).
    • Honolulu: negative test w/in 48 hours.
    • New Orleans: negative test w/in 72 hours.
    • Philadelphia will allow negative tests to be accepted for 1st two weeks (1/3 – 1/17)

What Other Types of Spots DC Isn’t Subjecting to a Vax Mandate That Other Cities Are?

DC is covering most places that are covered in other spots, except:

  • Museums
    • Applies in NYC, LA, Seattle, Honolulu, Oakland, Boston
    • Doesn’t Apply in New Orleans, Philly, SF, Chicago (except in dining areas)
    • Most likely doesn’t apply in DC due to potential confusion with Smithsonian, which doesn’t need to follow DC rules. May change in future.
  • Government Buildings
    • LA (City Hall, rec centers, service centers)
    • Oakland: vax or negative test
  • Outdoor stadiums/large events
    • LA, Seattle, New Orleans: vax or negative test
  • Shopping Malls
    • LA only
    • Most if not all other cities require this in mall food courts/restaurants
  • Hair Salons/Barber Shops/Tattoo Shops/Massage Parlors
    • LA Only
  • Senior Centers
    • LA & Oakland

Why is DC Requiring Vax Mandates When Vaccinated Can Still Get COVID and spread the virus?

DC is very transparent that the main purpose of these mandates is to get people vaccinated “to preserve life, health, and hospital capacity.” The Mayor’s order mentions the following:

  • Less than 3% of those hospitalized in DC were fully vaccinated. Death is rare.
  • Cases most rapidly increasing in 25-34 year olds, with 80% of new cases under age of 44; younger folks less vaccinated than older folks. Younger folks more likely to goto restaurants, bars, clubs, live music and sporting events
  • Vaccine requirements have gotten vaccine hesitant people to get vaxxed.
  • Increase in vaccine coverage will “help to reduce the amount of virus circulating”

This was reiterated in the DMPED Town Hall.

They didn’t mention this-but was implied-because vaccinated are still less likely to contract the virus, because you can’t spread the virus unless you’ve contracted it.

Some studies also have cities the shorter infectious/contagious period for fully vaxxed, as another reason why vax mandates are still a good thing. IHME at the University of Washington modeled how a vaccine mandate in Seattle would help.

Why Isn’t DC Mandating Full Vax (Instead of Partial) Immediately?

Since the whole point is to incentivize vaccinations, DC wants people to have some time to comply and get their vaccination series. They also want to give time for businesses to prepare

Quickest/Longest Lead Time from Announcement to Implementation

  • New Orleans: 4 days (8/12 to 8/16)
  • SF: 8 days (8/12 to 8/20)
  • NYC: 13 days (8/3 to 8/16, enforcement started 9/13)
  • Chicago: 13 days (12/21 to 1/3)
  • Honolulu: 14 days (8/30 to 9/13)
  • Philly: 20 days (12/13 to 1/3, vax 1/17)
  • DC: 24 days (12/22 to 1/15)
  • Boston: 26 days (12/20 to 1/15)
  • LA: 32 days (10/6 to 11/8, enforcement started 11/29)
  • Seattle: 40 days (9/16 to 10/25)
  • Oakland: 41 days (12/22 to 2/1)

Several cities had a lag time between partial vax and full vax requirement for 12+:

  • New Orleans: 5.5 months (8/16 to 2/1)
  • NYC: 4 months (8/16 to 12/27)
  • DC: 30 days (1/15 to 2/15)
  • Boston: 30 days (1/15 to 2/15)
  • Honolulu, Chicago, Oakland, Philly, SF, Seattle went straight to full vax as requirement, though as you can see above, there was still a lag time between announcement and requirement for most

What About Booster Shots?

The CDC has not changed the definition of fully vaccinated yet, so it remains J&J (1 shot), and Moderna/Pfizer (2 shots). The mayoral order explicitly delegates to Department of Health to add booster shots to the requirement in the future; I expect they will do this once CDC announces a change to definition and/or other cities follow suit.

No cities with a vax mandate have required boosters yet for entry into these establishments.

What About Ages Under 12?

The VaxDC requirement only applies to those age 12 and over (a grace period will be implemented for those who recently turn 12), who have all been eligible to be vaxxed since May 2021. Those age 5-11 were only authorized in early November 2021 and will not be required to show vax proof. The mayor’s order doesn’t mention them, so a new order will need to be issued in future if wish to add.

Cities including age 5-11:

  • NYC: partial 12/14, full 1/29
  • New Orleans: partial 1/3, full 2/1 (same as 12+)
  • Philly: partial 1/3, full 2/3
  • Boston: partial 3/1, full 5/1
  • Chicago: full 1/3 (same as 12+)
  • LA, SF, Seattle, Honolulu, Oakland, DC: 5-11 no requirement yet

Why Are Churches Excluded?

NBC4 Mark Segraves tried to get a straight answer on this during last week’s press conference, with DC officials just mentioning case spreads not being that much in churches but they sort of danced around it. Churches are often places where people congregate closely for lengthy periods of time, so one might expect them to be included. But DC has already lost at least lawsuit challenging capacity restrictions on churches, and given the Supreme Court’s rulings on this in the past year, no other city appears to be require churches to have a vaccine mandate. Under the current Supreme Court makeup, this would likely only be upheld if the requirement applied to every single business open to the public, including grocery stores and other retail.

Who Will Enforce This on Businesses?

Businesses will be required to check proof of vaccination. DC said a bunch of agencies, can take action against these places that don’t post signs and don’t check for vax proof, including $1000 fines and suspended licenses. But after what I expect to be a lengthy education period (at least a week or two), I will expect ABRA to enforce bars/restaurants (warnings to start), and DOH to enforce everywhere else.

Will you still be required to wear a mask in these places?

Yes, at least until January 31st, unless the Mayor shortens/extends the mask order. Of course it doesn’t apply when not eating or drinking in restaurants and ABRA only requires biz to enforce upon entry.

  • Masks and Vax Required: SF (except gyms), Honolulu, LA, Boston, Oakland, Chicago
  • Vax Required, Masks Not Required: NYC, New Orleans, Philly

What About Medical/Religious Accommodations?

DC exempts those who are medically exempt or unable to take vaccine out of a sincerely held religious belief. These patrons will be allowed to enter but only if they provide a negative PCR or antigen test within the last 24 hours and provide documentation (note from medical provider or attestation that they have a sincerely held religious belief). As Dept of Health noted, there are very few medical reasons why someone shouldn’t be vaccinated.

Cities are all over the place on this:

  • NYC doesn’t apparently allow religious exemptions.
  • LA allows negative test accommodations but only if no outdoor space is available.
  • SF allows a business without outdoor space to accommodate by simply telling customer about nearby place that has outdoor space.
  • But most will accommodate religious/medical exemptions by allowing a negative test instead.

Why Doesn’t DC Create an App like NYC To Verify Vaccinations?

First, there may be a misconception. Although NYC started using the Excelsior Pass (which generates a QR code/pass) very early and also has a NYC COVID Safe App which just contains a photo of your CDC card and photo ID, NYC doesn’t require the use of one of the apps. Bsed on what I’ve heard from a current bartender in NYC and my brother who moved from there recently, only half of patrons use one of these apps; the rest just show a photo of their CDC card or a paper version.

DC doesn’t seem to be that interested in creating an app given a large chunk of residents (1/4 to 1/3 by some estimates) got vaccinated outside DC so DC would be unable to verify the vaccinations of those who got vaxxed elsewhere-the MyIr Mobile (not an app but a web-based portal) does serve this purpose. DC recommends a couple apps (see above).

Unlike Europe, which has fewer political and social hurdles in allowing governments to keep track who all in the entire country/EU have been vaccinated, the CDC does not keep track of who has been vaccinated (they have state of residence, age, and race info). I’m not sure if there are any laws that would prevent them from doing that originally, but it would have been a complicated/expensive undertaking (unlikely to be implemented in time) and they may have been concerned that some lawmakers / citizens would threaten budget/be spooked from getting vaccinated if there was a national database

What is the current DC vaccination coverage in DC?

According to CDC data, 95% of DC residents 12+ have at least one shot, 76% fully vaxxed. However, this data likely overstates the number with one shot (lot of boosters counted as first shot since people were vaxxed in different sites/states than first shots) and understates full vax (lot of 2nd shots were counted as 1st shots), so I would estimate actually over 4 out of 5 DC residents 12 and over are fully vaccinated.

Isn’t this policy inequitable or racist?

Although this question seems to be frequently posed in bad faith by people who have never really cared about social justice, there are some people who genuinely believe this. Many who believe that a vaccination requirement is racist cite the personal experiences and the many articles in the media discussing the deserved distrust by many in the Black community to public health and medical professionals, as well as issues with unequal access. According to many of these people, the data is indicative of this mistrust and access issues: DC Health data (as of 12/22) says only 46.6% of Black DC residents over the age of 12 are fully vaxxed (54.4% at least partially).

However, DC racial vaccination data is limited: 1) many vaccinations, particularly early on, were missing demographic/race data, 2) people who got vaccinated elsewhere outside DC likely are not included in these stats. So people who fall into either groups are considered unvaccinated according to the statistics.

Given that the same data shows that 48.2% of White DC residents over the age of 12 are fully vaxxed (59.2% at least partially), makes it even clearer the data limitations. It would be impossible for these stats to be reconciled with the full DC stats (76% full, 95% partial) without recognizing the limitations in the data.

A potentially better way to show the difference (and a difference does remain) is to compare the White % to Black % (by dividing the percentages), which shows White full vax % is 3.4% higher and partial/full vax is 8.8% higher. However, some may argue that earlier vaccinations and out of DC vaccinations included disproportionately more White people so this may understate the disparity.

Another data point: CDC data nationally shows that Black people make up 10% of people who have received at least one dose and 11% of those recently vaccinated, compared to 12% of the population. White people make up a smaller share of people who have received at least one dose (58%) and people who have recently received a vaccination (50%) compared to their share of the total population (61%).

When does a Vaccine Mandate Disappear/Come Back?

The mayor’s order is indefinite. I would expect this mandate to stay in place as long as the WHO declares a pandemic.

Many cities have set an extendable time limit of 6 months. Chicago said this mandate stays until city is “through this Omicron-driven surge and the risk of overwhelming hospital capacity has passed.”

Will this work?

Depends on what the goal is (or what you think the goal should be).

DC’s stated goal is to increase vaccinations. It’s hard to say whether people who are unvaxxed in DC are frequently patronizing bars and restaurants and other covered biz. Many of those unvaxxed folks may try to show fake vax cards. I do think that might be overblown so I could see that there could be some number of people getting vaxxed due to these entry requirements. Perhaps this may be more likely for the 12-17 aged folks.

I don’t necessarily think this will make bars and restaurants any “safer” – vaxxed people still get infected and contagious, though less likely to do so, so perhaps this argument has some merit. Still, with people showing fake vax cards, may be difficult.

DC Possibly Will Announce Indoor Dining Vaccine Mandate on Wednesday

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

I’ve been told there will be “news” tomorrow from DC officials, though I don’t know what exactly the news is.

My expectation is for DC to make an announcement of a vaccine mandate for indoor dining and other activities such as gyms, theaters, indoor events, etc. following the announcement of Chicago today, Boston yesterday, and Philadelphia last week. Expect the requirement to take effect sometime in January like these other cities.

New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, and New Orleans are the other major US cities with a similar requirement.

Currently roughly 70 of DC’s 1500+ bars and restaurants have self imposed a vax mandate since August.

A secondhand source was told that a vaccine mandate is not the news coming but a 3rd person who wrote a constituent letter back in summer requesting a vax mandate received an email from Mayor’s office out of the blue telling him to tune in to Wednesday’s situational update, which seems to confirm it.

Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill Closing For Good

Tortilla Coast, the Tex-Mex institution, is closing for good after three decades on Capitol Hill, owner (through his restaurant group) Geoff Tracy confirmed to me today. The last day the spot will be open to the public is tomorrow, Saturday, December 18th (per another source), but Tracy tells me that they will be open to host private events until mid-to-late February. The staff, who was reportedly notified of the closure on Tuesday, will be moving to either one of the Cheff Geoff’s restaurants or Lia’s in Bethesda.

The spot opened originally in the current Union Pub space in 1988 and then in its current location in April 1996.

This isn’t the first time during the pandemic that it was reported that the spot was closing-in July 2020, Union Pub actually broke the news that they were closing, but due to the strong support and “a margarita miracle” Tracy decided to try to keep it open as long it could (with the help of a PPP loan), despite the whopping $36,000/month rent (including common area maintenance and landlord’s real estate tax). It lasted almost another 18 months, though January 6th led to even more woes, and as of September 2021, business was still down 75%. In fact, the spot only kept open because the restaurant group was a lucky recipient of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund lottery ($8.2 million). But alas, this was not enough.

$40 Million DC Restaurant/Bar/Retail Rent Relief Program Delayed Despite Impending Restart of Commercial Evictions

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

The new $40 million Small Business Rent Relief Program is still stuck in neutral, as Mayor Bowser’s administration will be unable to open it up for applications in the “Fall 2021′ timeframe they had hoped due to what they claim is the complexity of the program as reflected in the legislation passed by DC Council.

John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, explained to me on Twitter why:

“This one is going to be tough to design and administer. It would be much more efficient to get the relief to businesses instead of making businesses a pass through to their landlord … Our next step is to find an administrator for the program…[The] legislative language limits the admin[istrative] fee to 1% so it will be tough to find an administrator to develop the program, run it & do compliance for it”

Many of DC’s large grant programs during the pandemic have actually been administered by a 3rd party administrator (RAMW was one of the administrators for the Streatery grant program) who handles/reviews the applications. According to the legislative text, this would apparently limit the administrator to $400,000 in fees to run the program.

One option that could be potentially possible – the DC Council could pass an emergency bill to tweak the way the grant works so that some of the requirements are simplified and the administrative fee cap is raised. I’m hoping the executive is talking with CMs on this issue to address this quickly. Commercial eviction proceedings can be filed January 1st, meaning actual eviction won’t be too far behind.

As a reminder, this program will award grants to restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and brick & mortar retail establishments in DC equal to 1/3 of the business’s past-due rent for the 4/1/20 – 3/31/21 time period. The tenant/business owner would be required to pay 1/3 of the past due rent, with the landlord agreeing to forgo 1/3 of the past due rent.

The grant program would be limited to spots:

  • Operating on leased property
  • With 2020 revenue of no more than $5 million
  • In Good Standing with DC Tax/Revenue
  • Lease that extends to at least the end of 2023
  • Did not receive the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) or Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.
  • That would get current on rent if the grant was awarded.
  • Priority given to biz who didn’t get PPP loans.