Category Archives: DC Bar News

Where to Get the Best French Fries and Tater Tots in DC

Rooming Rooster’s french fries received many votes (also only pictures of fries I’ve taken I can find online)

[Up-to-date as of July 31, 2020)
Next in the series of Barred in DC food guides is a 2-for-1 combining fried potato-specifically French fries as well as tater tots in DC. Again, most of these guides are generated  from an open Twitter threads-they are based on what my Twitter followers believe is the best in the District of Columbia rather than my personal experience, as I’ve not had all them (my expertise would be useless as I’m not a food critic). See original French Fries and Tater Tots Twitter threads.

(ketchup general available or provided when nothing is mentioned, and often in other situations)


The Best of the Best

  • Le Diplomate (14th St)
    • $8 pommes frites
    • Included with mussels/lobster/steak frites, burger (also on Best Burgers List)
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor/Outdoor Dine-In
  • Granville Moore’s (H Street)
    • $7 frites (hand-cut, twice fried)
    • Choice of 2 sauces (truffle mayo, chipotle mayo, old bay aioli, samurai sauce, curry mayo, dijonnaise).
    • Included with burgers and most entrees
    • currently not available pop-up Italian spot open Fri-Sat
  • Medium Rare (Cleveland Park, Bethesda, Arlington)
    • Not available a la carte
    • Secret Sauce
    • Part of $24 steak frites prix fixe. $28 bottomless brunch
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor/Outdoor Dine-In

The Next Best

  • Five Guys (several all over city)
    • $4.09 (little), $5.19 (regular) $6.79 (large) fries. Cajun fries available. (cooked in 100% peanut oil)
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor Dine-In
  • Red Apron Butcher/The Partisan (Penn Quarter)
    • $6 aged beef fat fries
    • Ranch aioli
    • Included with steak frites
    • Pickup/Delivery
  • The Queen Vic (H Street)
    • $8 ($6.80 call/pickup) hand-cut “chips” (British-style, a bit thicker
    • House aioli
    • Included with fish & chips (considered best in DC), fried chicken BLT, kids chicken fingers/cheese burger
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor Dine-in

Lots of Support

  • Roaming Rooster (Bladensburg/NE, U Street,)
    • $2.50 (small), $3.50 (large) hand cut twice-fried
    • Honey mustard, sriracha mayo
    • Pickup/Delivery (best chicken sandwich)
  • Amsterdam Falafel (Adams Morgan, L’Enfant)
    • $4 (small), $5 (regular) Dutch-style, twice fried
    • Unlimited sauces apparently (garlic cream (both vegan and not), curried ketchup, ketchup, Dutch mayo, tahini, peanut sauce
    • Pickup (Adams Morgan only)/Delivery
  • Lucky Buns (Adams Morgan, Union Market)
    • $6 thick “chips”, $7 curry chips (chips with Irish pub curry sauce over it)
    • Malt vinegar mayo w/ thick chips. $1 extra for spicy sambal ketchup, lucky sauce, or mumbo sauce
    • Pickup/Delivery/Outdoor Dine-In (Adams Morgan) (one of best burgers)
  • Belga Café (Barracks Row)
    • $8 Belgian frites
    • 3 types of mayo served
    • Included with roasted chicken, burger, steak, stew, steak tartare
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor/Outdoor Dine-In
  • Beuchert’s (Eastern Market)
    • $8 Kennebec (potato) French fries
    • Sauce ravigote (classic French herby sauce)
    • Included with $2 surcharge with burger and sandwiches
    • Pickup/Delivery/Outdoor Dine-in
  • Bourbon Steak (Georgetown)
    • $10 Duck fat french fry trio (truffle, garlic & herbs, old bay).
    • 3 small baskets of fries with different seasonings and 3 different sauces
    • Comes with entrée (like bread). Sometimes part of a weekday burger lunch deal (one of best burgers)
    • Pickup/Outdoor Dine-In

Mentioned At Least Twice

  • Swizzler (food truck)- $2.25 (hand-cut French fries), $4.25 (parmesan truffle fries)
  • Federalist Pig/Fedwich (Adams Morgan/Dupont)- $2.50 (small), $6.50 (large) skin-on fries seasoned w/ house bbq rub. Included with sandwiches at Fedwich ($3 extra if more)
  • MGM Roast Beef (Brentwood) – $3 (half), $4 (full) fresh cut French fries
  • The Greek Spot (U Street) – $4 fries seasoned with Greek Spot special seasoning
  • DC9 (Shaw) – $5 garlic fries (garlic, herbs, sea salt w/ horseradish sauce). Included with burgers and sandwiches.
  • Looking Glass Lounge (Park View) – $5 fries, $6 garlic/old bay/seasoned curly fries, $7 cheesy fries
  • Brookland’s Finest – $5.50 hand cut fries. Included with burgers and sandwiches
  • The Berliner (Georgetown) – $7 fries (w/ mayo)
  • Cork (14th) – $8 – garlic/parsley, lemon, fries w/ house-made ketchup
  • The Salt Line (Navy Yard) – $8 fries. Included with burger and sandwiches.
  • Bonchon (Navy Yard) – $8 seasoned French fries (herb seasoning, Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes)
  • Primrose (Brookland)- $9 pommes frites w/ ketchup & Mayo
  • Blue Duck Tavern (West End) – $13 ($14 at dinner) – Hand-cut Blue Duck Tavern triple fries (duck fat fries). Pretty thick.
  • Ivy and Coney: (Shaw) $6 – curly fries

Others Mentioned: Roy Boys, The DIner, Bom, Walter’s, Burger IM, Muncheez, Andy’s Pizza, Eat Pow Wow, Joselito, Shake Shack, McDonald’s, Falafel Inc., Capital Burger, Duccini’s Alladin’s, Finn McCool’s, FIrefly, DCity Smokehouse, East Potomac GV, Emilie’s, Residents, Good Stuff Eatery, Soussi, Wingo’s, Zorba’s, Kramer’s, Tune Inn, Hank’s Oyster, Little Miner Tacos (carne asada fries), Slash Run (Curly fries), The Alex, Popeyes, Half Smoke (Crab fries), Bistro du Coin, Old Ebbitt, Cafe Riggs, The Sovereign, St. Arnold’s, The Green Zone, Brasserie Liberte


The Top Tot

  • Bluejacket (Navy Yard)
    • $7.50 tots (housemade)
    • Ketchup, dijoinnaise
    • $2 extra to smother it in cheddar, tasso ham gravy
    • Pickup/Delivery/ Outdoor Dining


  • Sticky Rice  (H Street)
    • $6.83 (mini), $10.75 (large bucket)
    • Secret tater tot sauce
    • $12.50 Tater-achoes (topped w/ chili, Sriracha, cheese, bacon & sour cream)
    • Pickup/Delivery
  • Tonic (Foggy Bottom)
    • $8.50 famous tater tots
    • Chipotle honey mustard, jalapeno aioli, curry ketchup
    • Included with sandwiches and burgers. $5 extra on entrees (or during HH)
    • $14 totchos or buffalo chicken tots
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor & Outdoor Dining

Next Group of Favorites

  • Churchkey (14th St)
    • $8 housemade tater tots
    • Add $3 to get it with sandwich/plate
    • Currently closed
  • Union Pub (Capitol Hill)
    • $10 plain ole tots
    • Chipotle ranch
    • Add $2 to sandwiches, plates, burgers to sub side of tots
    • $16 chicken totchos / old bay crab tots/ or buffalo chicken totchos
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor & Outdoor Dining
  • ChiKo (Dupont/Barracks Row)
    • $8 ChiKo Tots (just available at Dupont)
    • Chili miso aioli
    • Nats Game Day special available at both :$14 Bulgogi tots (bulgogi beef, kimchi cheese, green onion
    • Pickup/Delivery

Those With Multiple Mentions

  • The Big Hunt (Dupont)
    • $7 (plain or cajun seasoning)
    • $1 extra for chili, or cheese. 50 cent diced onions
    • Currently Closed
  • Tune Inn (Cap Hill)
    • $4-5
    • Currently not available
  • Red Derby (Columbia Heights)
    • $7
    • pickup/delivery/dining indoors and outdoors
  • Calico (Shaw) 
    • $6 regular tots
    • $10 loaded tots (cheddar, sour cream, bacon, scallion)
    • Pickup/dining indoors and outdoors
  • Pearl Street Warehouse (The Wharf)
    • $5 original
    • $10 Viet-Tots (Hoisin, sriracha, cilantro, scallion, peanuts), $11 loded tots (queso, bacon, scallions, sour cream)
    • Currently may not be available.
  • The Haymaker (H Street)
    • $5 tots
    • Sriracha mayo
    • $10 hot mess tots (Crispy tater tots w/ shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions, & sriracha mayo)
    • Pickup/Delivery
  • Duffy’s Irish Pub (H Street)
    • $6.50 tots
    • Lots of extra toppings available for $ – chopped corned beef, cheddar cheese, old bay, bacon, chopped raw onion, queso, shredded provolone, jalapeños, chili
    • pickup/delivery/outdoor dining

Others Mentioned: Nellie’s, Tortilla Coast, Union Trust, Yellow, Duffy’s, Rebellion, Stoney’s, Kelly’s Irish Times, The Bottom Line, PJ Clarke’s

Suburbs Mentioned a lot: Galaxy Hut (Clarendon), Quarry House Tavern (Silver Spring)

$100 Million Business Support Grant Program Approved by Mayor Bowser

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

On Monday, Mayor Bowser signed the “Business Support Grants Emergency Amendment Act of 2020“; the bill was returned to DC Council earlier today. The bill, introduced by Councilmembers Allen and McDuffie, passed by the Council of DC three weeks ago and sent to the Mayor’s office two weeks ago, can provide some help to DC businesses affected by COVID-19 and the restrictions in place to slow the spread.

This new Business Support Grant program authorizes (but does not require) DC to spend up to $100 million in CARES Act funds for grants to certain DC businesses. [UPDATE: Mayor’s chief of staff/Deputy Mayor told me that currently DC doesn’t have the CARES Act money to fund these grants. It is contingent on Congress restoring the $750 million it shortchanged DC in original CARES Act money.]

Like the $25 million Public Health Emergency Grant program from March/April, this program authorizes the Mayor to issue a grant to affected business who apply for a grant.

Eligible businesses include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Entertainment venues
  • Hotels
  • Food trucks and carts
  • Theaters
  • Sports & recreation venues
  • Art galleries
  • Child care center/daycare
  • Hospitality-related retail, including any business that “derives at least 80% of its revenue from sales of merchandise, food, beverages, accommodation services, ticket sales, advertising, media, or sponsorship, or a combination of the foregoing”

The law’s criteria requires that the business show:

  • 50% or more loss in gross receipts of sales in April 1 – June 30, 2020 compared to same period in 2019 OR
  • For new businesses that opened after March 11, 2019, a 50% or more loss in gross receipts from 3 months before March 11, 2020.

A grant would be up to 15% of the lost revenue for the business during that time period (though it cannot exceed a single month in 2019). Grant can be used for costs related for:

  • complying with the demands of the public health emergency;
  • reopening;
  • accommodating the emergency business environment; or
  • any other reason determined by Mayor to likely spur economic recovery

12.5% of grant funds are set aside for DC resident small businesses that are economically-disadvantaged individual or woman owned.

The Mayor is required to consider prioritizing those businesses closed due to public health emergency and unable to open until Phases 3 or 4 of ReOpenDC Plan as follows: Restaurants (38%), Hotels (28%), Retail (14.5%), Sports/entertainment sectors (14.5%), and Child care facilities (5%).

Landlords can also apply for grant for rental income leased to an eligible business if they’ve abated (i.e., waived) some amount of rent to the tenant. They would be eligible for essentially a grant to cover half of their lost rent.

The list of grant recipients must be published online by December 1st.

If this grant program goes like the one in March, applications will be due in mid August with funds disbursed in late September.

Emilie’s – What the Hell is Going On?

[Author’s Note: About 4 hours after this story was published,  Johann Moonsinghe reached out to Barred in DC via email to state that the timeline/story in my article had “a lot of inaccurate information” and asked to speak on the telephone. A conversation ensued (minor edit noted in 1st paragraph). He stated he would send me an email addressing claims that he could, but instead at 6:30p, a press release was issued, which is added at the end of this.

A few hours later, Moonsinghe provided me another statement; this is also added verbatim t to the end. Almost immediately after that, several former Emilie’s staff members wrote to me to tell that the statement was false and provided additional information, which is also added to the end.]

Earlier this week, all hell broke loose on a segment of DC food social media. Local artist Martin Swift shared an Instagram post which described how a mural of George Floyd he had loaned to [revised] Chef Kevin Tien of Emilie’s, a Capitol Hill restaurant, and had been kept by Emilie’s for 6 weeks beyond when he asked for it back [Note: Moonsinghe says that Swift agreed to leave the mural up 30 days after Tien left, so according to him, 6 weeks is inaccurate] because his friend, Chef/co-owner Kevin Tien, was no longer around with the project. The post includes very serious accusations about two investors/owners of Emilie’s, Sam Shoja (also a local franchisee of Jinya Ramen and owner of Sheesh Grill) and Johann Moonsinghe (CEO of inKind, a restaurant financing entity), and the comments to the post also echo complaints that former Black staff members levied at ownership creating a hostile environment.

So it might be helpful to sort everything in a timeline, in the only way I can write these articles, in bullet form.

  • Sept 13, 2018: Barred in DC breaks news about “Emilie” coming to Capitol Hill from Chef Kevin Tien.
  • November 16, 2018: Tien mentions that the name Emilie’s comes from a common name in family of a close family friend (In addition, close to his fiance’s name as well). Article states that although Emilie’s is a partnership with Shoja, “Tien has complete autonomy over the project,” with Tien saying Shoja “puts all the systems in place and gives me the freedom.
  • October 10, 2019: Emilie’s opens.
  • March 16, 2020: Emilie’s starts first day of take-out (limited delivery starts later) only due to coronavirus.
  • Late March 2020: The April 2020 issue of Washingtonian magazine is released. Magazine was prepared and published pre-pandemic, and includes an article by Jessica Sidman, entitled “Meet the Millennial Investors Funding DC’s Dining Future.”  Article mentions Emilie’s, Tien, Shoja, Moonsinghe, as well as another investor/consulting partner, Arris Noble. Unlike most Washingtonian articles, which are published online within a month or so, because of real concerns of tone-deafness, the article isn’t published online (with an addendum) until July 23, 2020.
  • April 26, 2020: 
    • Tien tells me “Honestly I won’t reopen the dining room until there is a vaccine. Our business was already breaking even with 100% capacity and we are barely breaking even with take out and a reduced staff. And that’s the truth for a majority of businesses. I’m lucky to be breaking even.”
    • Tien follows up with Sidman during same time frame that he worried about putting his staff at risk and having to make service compromises if he were to open at limited capacity.
  • May 18-21, 2020: Emilie’s closes temporarily because staff member had contact with some who tested positive. People appreciate the transparency.
  • May 23, 2020: 
    • Tien and members of the morning staff are locked out of Emilie’s with armed security staff guarding the building. All reports indicate that the locks were changed and the security staff hired on orders of Shoja. In a video posted on IG stories you can hear Tien explaining to security staff and MPD that he is one of the owners and his name is actually on the lease.
    • One of the security staff explains that they are trespassing. Tien tells MPD that “Sam [Shoja] is one of the investors in the building. The reason he locked us out is because I called him out on stealing from us [and] a non-profit and I had issues with him calling all my workers that are people of color ‘thieves’ and ‘gangsters.
    • Appears that everyone kept working after this, but this may have been the final straw.
    • Date is based on Swift’s IG post.
  • June 1, 2020: Emilie’s posts on IG expressing support for Black Lives Matter, which includes photos of signs of support on the exterior of the restaurant.
  • (possibly) June 1-3, 2020: I can’t find it anywhere publically, but per Eater/Gabe Hiatt,  “Former employees criticized an Instagram post from the restaurant that promoted Black Lives Matter by saying the restaurant had created a hostile environment for its diverse staff.” This may have occurred in the comment section of the IG post and/or an open letter.
  • June 3, 2020: Tien announces $12,000 in personal donations to 3 anti-racism related causes, and offers to throw event if anyone matches. Jessica Sidman Anna Spiegel writes article next day about it.
  • June 22, 2020: Emilie’s announces on IG that they will be opening for dine-in the following week after all.
  • June 24, 2020: Jessica Sidman breaks the news that Tien is leaving Emilie’s. Gabe Hiatt of Eater follows up with more information. Only 2 employees carry over to new team (management team was laid off on June 21st). Hamilton Johnson brought on as chef. Shoja will continue to operate Emilie’s, with no longer his 40% stake in TIen’s Hot Lola’s. Tien says he’ll take a breather and experiment with new dishes at Hot Lola’s. My understanding is that as part of separation is that he signed a NDA and has some sort of non-compete (this may last a year at least) to either not cook or not open another restaurant .
    • Tien: “I think at the end of the day [Shoja] was looking for more of a culinary director for like a restaurant group. That’s not really a role I wanted to get in. I’ve always had my own very independent business. …Honestly I felt like I was having a hard time figuring out who I was as a cook and how I wanted to cook. So I’m just taking the time to reflect on the kind of food I want to do going forward….For me it’s hard as an Asian American, because sometimes I don’t feel Asian enough, and sometimes I don’t feel American enough, so I feel a little bit lost in translation.”
    • Shoja: “The story is long, but I just stick with the official line… We basically had a mutual agreement to go our separate ways … We want to go toward a different type of restaurant…a different direction, different food, different management style and systems… We want to promote and bring in a lot of specifically African-American chefs, sous chefs, and people who basically want to grow with us in the industry so they can work under chef Hamilton and then possibly, as they grow, we may become partners.
  • July 23, 2020: The Sidman story regarding restaurant investors (including Emilie’s) is posted online and gets plenty of reaction, including negative ones from former Emilie’s staff (see below).
  • July 27, 2020: Swift posts on IG. I addition, to essentially claiming that his mural was held hostage by Emilie’s ownership for 6 weeks, he stated:
  • July 28, 2020: Several former Emilie’s staff members react to Swift’s post:
    • Erica Christian, a sommelier who worked at Emilie’s previously (see great Washingtonian interview) posts that “I am a former employee of Emilie’s and spoke out intensely publicly and privately. The owners were incredibly racist and refused to realize it. Even Kevin let this treatment occur, but in his efforts to mend, that were honestly still quite toxic, they pushed him out. They reached out me through my DMs in this very platform to offer me an option to return to this toxic place of work. According to the owners/investors, the racist management and ownership had changed. They refuse to acknowledge that they took part in that harm. They were wildly rude and demanding. Privilege isn’t even the word to describe how unaware they made themselves or how they took advantage of labor. Thank you for speaking out. Sam Ashoka and Johann Moonsinghe should not be supported. They harmed so many Black women who worked at Emilie’s and the entire staff. This needs to be brought to light.”
    • Another former staff member posted the now deleted IG story), thatJohann is not the ally that he claims to be. Johann along Sam Shoja, current owner-operator of Emilie’s made our lives hell. Sam called our Black and Brown staff ‘gangster’ and ‘thugs’ because he was unhappy with outfit choices and what he deemed to be ‘not suited for fine dining.’”
    • Willa Lou Pelini, formerly a pastry chef with Emilie’s, and a co-founder of Bakers Against Racism (with Paola Vez, Rob Rubba), posts IG stories echoing what has been said about hostile environment, including Johann “berating” a sommelier for featuring women winemakers (“No one cares about that,” he is alleged to have said.)  and that Shoja and other investors showed “disrespect, entitlement, bullying, and total lack of compassion.
  • Finally, on July 28th, Emilie’s responds in the comment section of Swift’s IG post to state “After several attempts to reach [Swift] we can confirm that that he removed his art yesterday. Our team has exciting collaborations coming – with local Black artists, farmers, and vendors, that we are thrilled to share with you all soon.
  • On July 29th, following publication of this story, Emilie’s sent me a press release, set forth below.

Statement on Former Staff Accusations

Washington, DC (July 29, 2020)—This week, public accusations have been directed at Emilie’s ownership and former staff. Since the reports were published, the restaurant’s leadership has been disseminating each claim to provide accurate information and clarity to those involved, our current staff, and the community.

Emilie’s is currently owned and operated by Sam Shoja and Johann Moonesinghe. When Emilie’s opened, then chef and co-owner Kevin Tien was the operating partner of the restaurant. Chef Tien chose to leave Emilie’s in June 2020.

As owners, we acknowledge that we should have played an active role in establishing an environment that provided and promoted open dialogue and safeguarded employees and partners from unfair treatment. We acknowledge the culture of mistrust and disrespect that happened since the restaurant opened and acknowledge as investors, we are ultimately responsible for things that happen within our business. We recognize that if we want better, we must do better.

We are now learning from former employees about specific instances of mistreatment and are working in real time to speak to those individuals. We hope that an open dialogue will help inform how, as owners of Emilie’s, we can better engage with staff and the communities we serve. After continuing these conversations, we expect to be able to address specific claims. Moving forward, we are making it an essential part of any investment to ensure that this type of environment doesn’t exist here, or any other business we support.

Since June, we have dedicated time and space to focus on actionable steps that we, as the current restaurant team, can take to facilitate the kind of professional and inclusive environment that the staff and guests deserve. To that end, we:

    • Are soliciting a third-party vendor to provide a hotline system that both employees and guests can use if they face problems in the restaurant;
    • Are working with artists of color to amplify their voices;
    • Are reinforcing diversity and inclusion in our hiring process, and;
    • Will begin offering implicit bias training starting in August.

Emilie’s has been mission-driven by trying to combat social justice issues through food – implementing programs that include:

    • A mentorship program for refugees in our area;
    • A kitchen training program focused on supporting minorities, to further develop an inclusive pool of talent;
    • Multiple farm and vendor partnerships focused on supporting local underserved businesses, and;
    • A diversity in wine program series, which launches in August.
  • The artist Swift also posted in the comment section below.
    • Hey, this is the artist Martin Swift. Thanks for writing this all out. I just want to clarify a few things. First of all, the mural was loaned to Kevin personally. At the time of installation Kevin had not decided to depart the restaurant and as owner/ operator he elected to put it up. I would not have painted it had he known he was going to have to leave the business. Secondly, I never agreed to a three week time period. I had only one phone call with Johann directly (on June17th) and one email thread with them last week. On the 17th I reluctantly agreed to give them 10 days to resolve this situation due to the demands that they issued which are mentioned in my statement. Any intervening contact I had with them was through third party legal counsel which Kevin and I both agreed was for the best. When I heard about the three week window I told Kevin that it was unacceptable. My hands were again tied by the demands I mention in my statement. You allude to the fact that Kevin is legally bound from speaking about this or defending himself. Keep that in mind when you read any of their statements. I know for a fact that these individuals tried to get all of the departing staff to sign NDAs. People who don’t have anything to hide don’t make others sign NDAs.
      I stand by my statement.
  • A few hours after the press release was sent out (and posted on social media), Moonsinghe sent me this statement that goes into his view of the business relationship and explains his view of the events leading to Tien’s departure (again, none of these facts are confirmed):

First, just to be clear my investment in Emilie’s was a loan and was not technically a partner. Sam Shoja was supposed to be the operational partner and Chef Kevin Tien the culinary partner. However, as soon as the restaurant opened, Kevin unilaterally decided to take over operations. Sam was a bit concerned by this but decided to let Kevin run with it at first. Kevin remained the operational owner of the restaurant from opening until the end of June, at which point Sam took over. Also, I personally never had any interest in being involved in, much less taking over the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. First, I don’t live in DC and travel frequently and second it rarely serves the restaurant to have someone without an intimate understanding of the day-to-day be in charge of operations.

However, I did believe in Emlies, and continued to show my support by lending additional money to Emilie’s in December and January, so the restaurant could pay its bills and employees. Additionally, in the interest of keeping Emilie’s financially healthy out of the gate I, personally, never once collected any loan payments from Emilies. I figured I would wait until they were healthy and then worry about it then.

Things started to really go downhill when on May 5, Kevin removed Sam’s access to the point of sale system and switched the bank accounts of the restaurant to another bank without notifying Sam. This obviously worried Sam as Sam had invested a significant amount of his personal money and he now had no idea where it was going. As a result, Sam invoked a clause in Emilie’s Operating Agreement, which allowed him to remove Kevin as the operational partner in the restaurant while STILL maintaining ALL of his ownership.

Kevin and Sam continued to argue and the situation deteriorated. At this point I got involved as a mediator since Kevin and Sam saw me as more of a neutral party, to figure out a solution to which all of the stakeholders (Sam, Kevin, inKind, myself, and the Landlord) could agree.

After many back and forths, we were able to settle on a few options to resolve the matter. It was agreed upon by Sam and Kevin that either

1) Kevin could keep Emilie’s and give Hot Lola’s (also part of the group) to Sam, or

2) Kevin could keep Hot Lola’s and give Emilie’s to Sam.

This would allow each partner to keep an establishment without having to work together. At this point Kevin made the decision to give Emlie’s to Sam and keep Hot Lolas because Emilie’s was not doing well due to Covid. With that decided, Sam paid Kevin out for the capital that he contributed to the restaurant and Sam gave his ownership of Hot Lola’s to Kevin. Kevin was cooperative during the transition, helping Chef Hamilton Johnson (his replacement) to get to know the kitchen and menu before leaving.

With reference to the mural, Martin, who did not work at Emilie’s, called me the day before the transition and asked that either the mural he painted be taken down, or that he get paid $6,000 to keep it up. Sam told him that he would appreciate it if he would wait 30 days in order to avoid the mistaken impression that he doesn’t support Black Lives Matter because, as a refugee from Afghanistan, he wholeheartedly supports the movement. Martin agreed and contacted me on day 30 as I was the one who helped negotiate the settlement. I immediately included the GM of Emilie’s on the email and she worked with Martin on the logistics of taking down the mural. The GM ended up taking down the mural for Martin because he had trouble working out how his insurance would cover him at Emilie’s.

It was not until after this seemingly reasonable exchange that Martin decided to start misrepresenting the situation and accusing us of working against social justice. As a brown, gay man and a first-generation American, I could not be more aligned with the need/fight for racial and social justice in the United States.

  • Following the publication of this statement, I received multiple messages from former Emilie’s staffers who, to say the least, uh, disagreed with Moonsinghe’s statement.
    • Here’s one, from a former staffer (they say monetary figures are ballpark, not exact):
      • The reason Kevin took bank access away from Sam was that Sam took $15k out of the bank account in March right before the shutdown unannounced. This put us in financial trouble as is. Then in the middle of April, inkind (Johann’s company) decided they would start collecting on their loan again in the middle of a global pandemic. Kevin asked them to hold off so we could build our grocery program until the beginning of May. They agreed. Sam also only wanted to give the landlord half rent, but Kevin told him that we should pay the full rent so we don’t owe money down the road. Kevin went and paid the full rent. Johann caught wind of this and decided it would be appropriate to send Kevin a demand letter insisting he pay the full balance back to inkind by that Monday. Sam saw the demand letter and freaked out. He decided to pay inkind around $39,000 and pay our quarterly sales tax which was $92,000. He decided to do this on the same day that we processed payroll, so Sam actively put a stop payment on payroll to pay inkind. So all of our employees were paid late. At this point, Kevin was advised to take away their bank access because they were acting in a direct detrimental way towards the longevity of the business. While Kevin was rerouting the POS sales into the new account, that account number was accidentally shared with Sam’s nephew, who then gave it to inkind. Inkind then attempted to pull $15,000 more out of the new account that Sam had no permissions on. Luckily Kevin caught it and flagged it as fraudulent… But also know that Kevin was never paid back his initial investment and is in massive debt because of Sam and Johann. They are liars and unethical business owners. Everything in his statement is a bold faced lie…
      • also they never had an operating agreement signed for Emilie’s LLC. So that’s another lie. What a complete shitshow this place is/was.
      • [ADDED MORE 7/30]:
      • Kevin and Sam had a different LLC called KS Holdings registered in Virginia that was meant to be a “consulting group”. They did have an operating agreement signed for that, however it was never valid for Emilie’s LLC. Sam would refer to that operating agreement whenever he wanted to try to strip control from Kevin. Sam also was never an owner of Hot Lola’s. Kevin has an operating agreement signed there naming him as the only member of the LLC.
    • Another former staff member said
      • the statement …. Johann sent you is 100% untrue. There is an NDA in place and Kevin is not allowed to comment on anything that is being said…Johann and Sam are continuing to sit safe at home and count their money while people are risking their lives working hard and long hours for shitty pay…my intent in this is not to undermine any good work they are doing but to make sure that no one was put in the same situation we were. Honestly one of the most tumultuous, stressful and heartbreaking times in my life.” 
      • This staff member also explained their view of what occurred when Tien and staff was locked out, “We arrived for work that morning (7am after leaving work the night before at around 11pm) to find the door locked, armed guards posted out front and a sign saying the restaurant was closed…Sam waited until we left the restaurant the night before, came in and changed all the locks, took over $500 worth of raw proteins and packaged foods from the premises and sent an email to Kevin saying he would only grant us access to the building if Kevin gave him access to the bank account….Kevin [had] changed the bank account because of the unauthorized and abusive withdrawals that Sam made from the previous Emilie’s account.”
      • They further said “Side note: Sam withdrew the Emilie’s PPP application WITHOUT telling Kevin because Sam found out it had to be used for labor and he couldn’t take any of the money himself. Kevin found this out from the bank, not Sam himself. This money could have made a huge difference in the lives of our employees who worked extremely hard during the shut down under intense stress.”
    •  Another former staff member actually annotated Moonsinghe’s statement:
      • They explained that “it is filled to the brim with lies…At this point from what I can tell, Johann is banking on the fact that Kevin is bound by an NDA and cannot speak out against him and all the pertinent documents are also legally bound. So now he’s writing his own fantasy version of events.
      • Kevin was always the operational manager.”
      • Johann constantly made demands on how he wanted things to be done. He rushed us into to opening the back room. He rushed us into opening 7 days a week (2 more days than we were ready for). He did not care about overburdening staff or about our hiring limitations.)”
      • InKind regularly collected money and Johann sent a letter demanding the rest of his investment in full IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC.”
      • Kevin [removed Sam’s access to POS system and switched bank accounts] to stop Sam from continuing to steal tens of thousands of dollars from our bank account.”
      • There was never an operating agreement and therefore there was no clause allowing Sam [to allow him to remove Kevin as an operational partner].”
      • Johann was never a neutral party.”
      • Kevin was bullied into [the two options.] He was given a choice between two of his restaurants, but he had no other options.”
      • Martin … was told Kevin would be charged $10k if the mural was removed. He was then told they would call the police on him if he removed it.

Analyzing ABRA Phase 2 Violations – A Hierarchy of Violations Becomes Clear

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

This week, the Mayor and ABRA posted that to date during Phase 2 it had fined four bars/restaurants (including two covered here last week), and issued verbal or written warnings to more than 40 of them as of July 23rd for violations that took place during the first month of phase 2. Barred in DC has obtained copies of the investigative reports for all four fines and a couple other ones, and has found some interesting observations. Note that some of the “violations/observations” listed in ABRA’s chart don’t match up to the reports I received (I used the report info for those I had) so take some of the info in the chart with grain of salt. DCIst wrote about some of these as well.

[Note: On 7/27, ABRA released their policy guidance that notes what they will be charging for each of them. They match up closely, and I’ve noted them before.]

1. Serve alcohol without prepared food – likely $1,000 fine.

ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (no warning); 2nd: $2000
Although most had other violations, all four spots fined had let people order booze without the table ordering a least one prepared food item, as required. Some weren’t even offering food at all at the time. Only one spot with this violation received a written warning, but that occurred the first weekend of Phase 2, where only warnings or education were issued.

How did ABRA determine this was an issue? For 3 of the 4 spots, it looks like they did this based on visual observation. For Marleny’s, a Salvadoran-Mex spot in Mt Pleasant, the investigator further asked the owner to provide copies of the guest checks so ABRA could review. The owner had explained that “most of her customers do not want food, and only want alcohol.”

I’ve been told that many spots in DC have not been enforcing this rule but ABRA clearly is trying to, so good idea to start doing this to avoid a $1000 fine or worse.

As a reminder, each spot open must offer a food menu with at least 3 prepared food items (pre-packaged snacks like a store bought bag of chips do not count) at all times open. One food item must be purchased per table. Food trucks can be used.

The rationale for this rule and the importance of this is clear: bars are generally considered some of the highest risk activities during COVID. Although requiring sitting mitigates this a bit, bars are designed for the consumption of alcohol-and it doesn’t take a pubic health expert to recognize that more alcohol people drink, harder for them to adhere to the rules and adds the difficulty of spot being able to enforce the rules. Many states have closed bars due to the pandemic; NY state explained that such rules are designed

to ensure that patrons are enjoying a sit-down dining experience among a small group with drinks, i.e. a meal, and not a drinking, bar-type experience.  A drinking, bar-type experience often involves or leads to mingling and other conduct that is non-compliant with social distancing and the use of face covering and is therefore not yet a safe activity during the current health emergency.

Since there is no legal definition of a “bar” in DC, and to allow all spots to work on the same footing, ABRA came up with this menu/food requirement. It’s not perfect since you don’t have to offer much to be compliant (unlike NY state which is requiring substantial meals like sandwiches/hot dogs at a minimum for most spots except breweries/distilleries.

2. Serving alcohol after midnight – $1000

ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (no warning); 2nd: $2000

Currently, bars/restaurants cannot serve alcohol past midnight. No one can be on the premises eating/drinking after that (unless spot w/o liquor license), though carryout/delivery of food only can continue. Carryout/delivery of booze also ends at midnight.

About 13 spots were cited for this violation; all of them were issued a written warning (but this will change).

The rationale for this early closing is not because coronavirus only comes out after midnight, like some myopic people keep saying. It’s similar to why food is required-late hours are usually associated with bar-like environments and people who are out in public after midnight may be more impaired and harder to ensure they are following the rules. Also limiting the amount of hours necessarily limits the amount of time people who don’t live with each other can spend in relatively close proximity. Of course, this is not perfect either but public health rules are about mitigation of risk, not hyper-targeted rules.

A violation after a written warning is likely a fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this conduct is fined in the future.

Note that offering entertainment (like live music or DJ) will be $1000 (no warning permitted) for 1st offense; $2,000 for 2nd offense.

3. Certain other violations are likely to lead to a written warning.

A few other less common violations are also considered more serious and come with at least a written warning:

  • Patrons not seated as required (3 spots cited)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (warning permitted); 2nd: $2000
  • Patrons allowed to order/sit at bar where bartender is working (4 spots cited)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (warning permitted ); 2nd: $2000
  • Failure to register outdoor seating if using something not currently allowed (1 spot cited; free and relatively easy)

4. Other violations have so far generally only led to verbal warnings.

Verbal warnings are more education than anything. Verbal warnings are usually being issued for (when other violations listed above are not present):

  • Music not at a conversational level (about 12 spots cited for this)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: Verbal/written warning; 2nd: $1,000; 3rd: $2,000
    • Entertainment (live music, DJs, etc.) are currently not allowed. Background music at a conversational level or lower is allowed.
    • Rationale is likely for two things: 1) outdoor space dining/drinking is allowed in spaces that are normally not allowed with longer hours than normal so intended not to overly disturb neighbors who didn’t have chance to object; 2) louder it is, harder it is to talk without yelling which is confirmed to be more likely to spread coronavirus)
  • Table spacing insufficient (about 12 spots cited for this)
    • Chairs (not just tables) have to be 6 feet apart from chairs on adjacent tables both inside and outside
    • Using plexiglass to separate booths is not sufficient
  • No reservation system (about 3 spots cited)
    • ABRA rules require spots to implement a phone, online, and/or in-person reservation system. Easy to do in-person-similar to wait-list.
    • ABRA: 1st offense: written warning; 2nd: $1000; 3rd: $2000
  • Staff or patrons not wearing masks (2 spots cited)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (warning permitted); 2nd: $2000
    • In one instance, this was the only violation and a verbal warning was issued, but this was the first weekend. The other instance-the bar was fined $1000 but there were several other violations. At least for staff not wearing, I suspect this will be at least a written warning in future.

The ABRA report also noted that at least one spot violated the rules by having a DJ (though it was unclear what penalty would entail since other charges) and by hookah (though unclear if ABRA has legal authority (DC Health instead) to cite hookah smoking-though it is included in its guidance.

5. Most of the citations have come from inspections/routine monitoring by ABRA investigators, not citizen complaints.

None of the 6 reports I received (including 4 fines) appear to have come directly from a citizen complaint. Indeed, many of them clearly were issued as part of ABRA’s review of the Adams Morgan open street/steatery as several spots in Adams Morgan were cited. ABRA investigators have been driving around and stopping by certain spots with many places open. That’s not to say citizen complaints may not drive a focus on certain areas, however.

A breakdown ((+) refers to fact that there were other violations present))

  1. No prepared food w/ alcohol
    1. DSF (+) – $1000
    2. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    3. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    4. Marleny’s – $1000
    5. Soussi – written (6/26)
  2. After-hours service
    1. Red Lounge (+) -$1000
    2. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    3. Café Milano –written
    4. Ben’s Next Door (+) – written
    5. Residents – written
    6. Empire Lounge (+) – written
    7. Costello’s – After hours
    8. Kiss Tavern – referral to OAG
    9. Luna Restaurant (Petworth) – considered next week
    10. Ben’s Next Door – written
    11. Don Juan – written
    12. Nile Ethiopian – written
    13. Odaly’s – written
  3. Patrons not seated
    1. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    2. Empire Lounge (+) – written
    3. Grand Central – written
  4. Bar service while people working at bar
    1. DSF (+) – $1000
    2. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    3. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    4. Next Door – written
  5. Failure to register outdoor seating
    1. Heaven & Hell – written
  6. Patrons not wearing masks
    1. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
  7. Staff not wearing face coverings
    1. District Soul Food (+) – $1000
    2. Right Spot – verbal
  8. Music not at a conversational level
    1. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    2. Empire Lounge – verbal
    3. Costellos (+) – written
    4. Empire Lounge (+) – written
    5. DSF – verbal
    6. Barcode – verbal
    7. Heaven & Hell – verbal
    8. Pitchers – verbal
    9. Spacey Cloud – verbal
    10. The Town Tavern – verbal
    11. Retobottega – verbal
    12. Elevate – verbal
  9. Table spacing insufficient
    1. DSF (+) – $1000
    2. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    3. Grand Central – verbal
    4. Johnny Pistolas – verbal
    5. Joyti – verbal
    6. Meze – verbal
    7. Retrobottega – verbal
    8. Harry’s – verbal
    9. Brooklyn – verbal
    10. Colada Shop – verbal
    11. Mission NY – verbal
    12. Zeppelin – verbal
  10. No reservation system
    1. Tiki TNT – verbal
    2. Zorba’s Café – verbal
    3. Zeba Bar & Grill – verbal
  11. Entertainment
    1. Red Lounge (+) – $1000

Two DC Establishments Fined $1,000 For Phase 2 Social Distancing and Other Violations

ABRA Inspection Form Tailored for Phase 2 Issues

On Wednesday, DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board issued $1,000 fines to two DC bars/restaurants, District Soul Food (Barracks Row) and Red Lounge Hookah (14th and U) for violations of ABRA’s Phase 2 regulations that followed from the Mayor’s Phase 2 order. These violations stemmed from incidents July 4th weekend. These are the first penalties Barred in DC has seen in Phase 1 or Phase 2 in DC as ABRA has been focused on education, but the infractions were serious enough that warranted immediate punishment.

Barred in DC (exclusively? probably, but who cares) requested and obtained copies of the investigative reports (with pictures) in this matter which state what happened.

For District Soul Food, the spot got dinged for a Friday July 3rd incident for:

  • Allowing employees to walk around w/o face masks while interacting with patrons
    • Manager even approached the ABRA investigator without one, c’mon
  • Allowing patrons to sit and drink at a bar while a bartender was working behind the bar
    • Owner said that they were waiting for food they ordered, but that’s not allowed.
  • Allowing on premises alcohol consumption w/o food purchase
  • Not placing chairs and tables six feet apart indoors and outdoors
    • Owner first said he didn’t know that said that though 1) investigator herself had told him during Phase 1 and 2) ABRA had literally been there 2 days before.

The restaurant had already received a warning for playing music louder than allowed during Phase 2; otherwise they may have gotten off without a fine. Read the report here for more details and pictures.

[Edited: District Soul Food responded to ABC 7, claiming they were singled out due to being  a black-owned business]

The next night, Red Lounge was cited for:

  • Operating past midnight (ABRA investigator showed up at 1am)
  • Allowing patrons to walk around without masks
  • Not placing booths and seats 6 feet apart
  • Allowing patrons to sit at 2nd floor bar when bartender was working
  • Having a DJ.

The owner told the ABRA investigator that she thought the only Phase 2 restriction was that patrons have wear masks (owner wasn’t wearing one because “she forgot to use” when speaking to the investigator). She thought she could close at 3am.

Because of the late hour, the spot was forced to shut down (40 people were still left), though it took 30 minutes for everyone to leave. One person even was “upset” because she had called the owner beforehand who said they could close at 3am. The report for Red Lounge can be read here.

If you think these penalties are low, note that currently the ABC Board is generally postponing all of its penalty decisions (unless business agrees to one) due to pandemic emergency but they may have been allowed to impose a limited penalty like this now. Additional penalties may apply to either spot in the future.

Victura Park – from Ian Hilton and Co. – Comes to The Reach at the Kennedy Center Today

Pic from Victura Park –
Mykl Wu

Pic from Victura Park –
Mykl Wu

The REACH at the Kennedy Center, which opened last September, has partnered with nightlife impresario Ian Hilton and his partners (American Ice, El Rey, Chez Billy Sud, etc.) to operate a seasonal outdoor cafe/wine garden. Victura Park, “soft” opening on Friday July 10th with full opening next week, will be an outdoor pop-up based out the River Pavilion (pictured above). The name comes from one of JFK’s sailboats. The space is dotted with outdoor picnic/cafe tables (shade umbrellas). People will be allowed to spread out on a blanket on the grass.

Hilton told me the concept was inspired by the casual nature of wineries. Beverages will be (at least mostly) in cans, including macro/craft beer ($7-8), cider ($8), wine (mostly $9), boozy seltzer/canned cocktail ($8-$9), and water (4); food will be casual-charcuterie/cheese boards ($29 for full, though you get smaller), olives, seasonal fruit, baguette/evoo. The spot, easily accessible by the new pedestrian/walk-your-bike bridge from the Potomac River waterfront (across Rock Creek Parkway), will be open throughout the summer Fri (3-10p), Sat (Noon-10p), Sun (Noon-8p).

The spot invites those to tag @victurapark (Twitter, Instagram) using hashtag #OasisWithinReach. 2700 F St NW is the address.

Before learning of this news, Barred in DC biked by the REACH and checked out the serene space that feels like it’s over the water, pics below; booze may only be allowed in certain areas).

The REACH at Kennedy Center (pic by Barred in DC) . Patrons will be allowed to hang out in specific areas socially distant from one another on the grass

The REACH at Kennedy Center (pic by Barred in DC)

The REACH at Kennedy Center (pic by Barred in DC)

[Note: This is Barred in DC’s first ever “embargoed” news scoop. Hilton reached out and told Barred in DC about this last Thursday but asked him to hold off until later to avoid crowds at opening]

Best Bloody Marys in DC

Bloody Mary (not from place listed). Photo by BiDC

I crowd-sourced the best Bloody Marys in DC on Twitter. Below are the ones mentioned the most.

Most Mentioned By Far:

  • Buffalo & Bergen
    • Capitol Hill (8a-3p Wed-Sun)
    • Union Market (temporarily closed)
    • $9 for normal bloody (currently available online for pickup/outdoor dining)
    • $19.50 Lox’d & Loaded
      • Skyy Vodka  Bloody garnished with lox, cream cheese, capers, red onion on an everything bagel

Mentioned Multiple Times:

  • Boundary Stone (Bloomingdale)
    • 11a-9p daily (takeout, outdoor dining)
    • Bloodys likely available at all times, but geared for weekend brunch
    • Normally $17 bottomless during weekend brunch
    • $9 singles.
    • $25 kit (1 qt of bloody mary  mix and 7.5 oz Tito’s vodka)
  • Old Ebbitt Grill (Downtown)
    • Open early to late (takeout, outdoor/indoor dining)
    • $14(?) Bloody Maryland cocktail
      • Old Bay on rim, large shrimp on rim
      • might not be available right now

Others Mentioned Once:

Columbia Heights/Brightwood Park/Park View/Petworth: RedRocks, Jackie Lee’s, Red Derby, Reliable Tavern, El Chucho, Wonderland Ballroom
Shaw/Logan Circle/Dupont: Roy Boys, Birch and Barley, Espita (tequila, mezcal), Logan Tavern, Pearl Dive
Capitol Hill/Navy Yard/The Wharf/NoMA:
Carving Room, The Salt Line.  Barrel, Beuchert’s Saloon, Hanks Oyster Bar, Station 4, Lavagna, Duffy’s, Roy Boys


List of DC Spots That Have Closed During Pandemic

As predicted by many in the industry, the pandemic as well as the associated restrictions have led restaurants/bars to announce (or otherwise indicate) that they are closely permanently (at least in their current form and location). Although some of these spots have explicitly said they’re not closing due to the pandemic (see *), including anyways as you never really know (bars that announcing closing in advance before pandemic was an issue are not included). Note that this Eater DC list was consulted, though I supplemented (dates it opened in parentheses).

[Last updated 8/5/20]

Booze-serving spots in the District only (so don’t @ me with a coffee shop or a random Subway)

  1. Post Pub (1974/1976)
  2. The Meeting Place (1970s/1980s)
  3. Eighteenth Street Lounge (1995)
  4. Fado (1998)*
  5. Montmartre (2001)
  6. Lucky Strike (2005)
  7. The Source (2007)
  8. Cafe Soleil (2008)
  9. Seventh Hill Pizza (2009)
  10. Ziegfield’s/Secrets (1980; last location 2009)
  11. Bistro Bohem (2012)
  12. Maddy’s Tap Room (2012)
  13. A&D Bar (2012)
  14. Ghibellina (2013)
  15. Red Rocks H Street (2013)
  16. B Too (2013)
  17. Chupacabra (2013)
  18. Momofuku/Milk Bar (2015)
  19. Sotto (2015)
  20. Campono (2015)
  21. DC Eagle (1971; last location 2015)*
  22. Big Chief (2016)
  23. Bareburger Dupont (2016)
  24. Nocturne (2017)
  25. Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. (1st storefront 2017; last location 2018)
  26. America Eats Tavern (2018)
  27. A Rake’s Progress (2018)
  28. Pom Pom (2019)


Phase 2 in DC Starting Monday June 22nd – But What Does That Mean?

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

Mayor Bowser announced today that DC is moving into phase 2 of the reopening starting effective Monday, June 21th (joining Montgomery County the previous Friday, 10 days after NoVa, and a week after PG County).

The Mayor issued a Phase 2 order (which followed this presentation, as well as guidelines, plus ABRA rules, and FAQ. Phase 2 will allow the following

Gatherings of 50 people or less Allowed (unless otherwise allowed. Does not apply to federal property)

Mask rules unchanged

Restaurants, Breweries, Bars, Distilleries

  • Indoor seating allowed (no standing) at 50% capacity with 6 foot buffer between parties (not just tables, but between patrons)
    • Restaurant staff and people sitting outside don’t count
  • Outdoor seating continues (with same 6 foot safeguards)
  • Seating at bar itself permitted but with 6 feet between parties AND when there’s no bartender working at that bar
    • So basically only for places that have multiple bars, and you have to mark if open for service or not
  • Limit of 6 people seated at a table or joined table
    • Communal tables can be used but need to demarcate 6 feet between groups
  • No indoor queuing 
  • Food must continue to be purchased by each table
  • Each spot will continue to have to offer at least 3 food items
  • No self-serve buffet
  • Dancing, darts, pool, other games will remain prohibited
  • Live music not allowed
  • Must close at midnight (if sell alcohol), both indoors and outdoors

Other Rules:

  • Gyms/workout studios (including in apartments/condo buildings) can open at very limited capacity (5 people/1000 SF).
    • Classes must keep 10 foot buffer.
    • No locker rooms, showering
    • 10 feet between equipment
  • Apartment/condo/gym pools may open (but not hotel pools)
    • Management must establish and enforce written infection plan
    • Mandatory sign-in (date, time, apt number, cell phone bumber)
    • Residents only
    • Unannounced inspections by DCRA and DOH
  • DPR pools open for lessons and lap swimming and other structured activities sometime after July 15th.
    • No deck lingering except during mandatory rest period
    • 6 feet buffer
  • All retailers can open for indoor shopping,
    • though ones that were closed during stay-at-home order can only open at 50% capacity
  • Nail/wax salon/spas/tattoos/threading open by appointment only at 6 feet apart (no waiting)
    • previously only barbershops and hair salons
  • Playgrounds open
  • Libraries will reopen in certain areas at 50% capacity. Time limits likely.
  • Museums/art galleries/National Zoo can reopen with capacity limits and physical distancing measures
    • guided tours not allowed in most situations
    • sneeze guards/protective barriers at ticket booths
    • tape/signage
    • Cannot allow more than 50 people in any self-contained exhibit hall/room
    • No standing receptions
  • Childcare can reopen to same staff/child capacity as prior to pandemic
  • Camps can open to max 10 people in single indoor space at a time.
  • Churches/places of worship go up to 100 people or 50% capacity, whichever is less. 10 person max groups 6 feet from other groups.
    • must clean between services
    • Encouraged take reservations and assign seats
  • Real estate open houses allowed
    • no more than 50 people
    • agents/hosts should take names
  • Theaters, cinemas, entertainment venues can apply for waiver to hold an event

Must Stay Closed:

  • Hookah/cigar bars must be closed
  • Hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms at gyms or residential buildings
  • No guided tours or large tour groups
  • Spray parks

DC’s New Requirements for Sidewalk Cafes and Street Dining – A Summary

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

On Friday, DC’s government released a joint publication of the Mayor’s office as well as DC’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Department of Health (DC Health), entitled Reimagining Outdoor Space: Restaurants and Retail, Guidelines for Expanded and New Outdoor Seating. A summary fact sheet was also released. If you are a DC restaurant/bar, member of an ANC, or head up a BID/Main Street, I strongly encourage you to review the entire 18 page document closely. Although the materials suggest that they are for Phase One reopening, expect that the requirements and flexibilities to be in effect for Phases Two and Three (i.e., until the public health emergency ends).

The biggest things that restaurants should know is that 1) sidewalk cafes are required to have 6 feet between backs of chairs of different tables (Not just tables) 2) 4 feet buffer between tables/chairs and the pedestrian path on the sidewalk 3) 4 feet buffer between adjacent business frontage 4) Parking space outdoor dining will require ADA ramps 5) ANCs/Main Streets/BIDs can apply to close whole parking on one or two sides of street block, traffic lanes, whole street, or alley.

Here’s a summary of the provisions:

Restaurants Can Register/Apply On their Own to Use:

  • Expanded or new Sidewalk space in front of restaurant (or adjacent property w/ written consent of owner or ground floor business)
    • Can start operating  immediately following registration but still have to apply for TOPS public space permit within 5 days
  • Parking Space(s) in front of restaurant (or same adjacent property)
    • Can’t operate until DDOT approves application via TOPS

ANC/Main Street/BID Can Register/Apply to Close For Outdoor Dining:

  • Full side of block of parking
  • Closure of lane(s) of traffic
  • Full Street closure (full or part time)
  • “Plaza” (basically large sidewalk areas or connected sidewalk areas)
  • Alleys behind/next to restaurant

Unclear what happens if one of these groups support closure but another don’t. But based on my reporting, it appears that all of the groups applicable to a certain space have to at least not object.

All new outdoor spaces will require the businesses using it to provide proof of insurance that names DC as certificate holder/additional insured with certain limits. This requirement makes sense and is consistent with existing rules for existing sidewalk cafes.

“Buffer” Requirements (NEW)

The following “buffers” are required for all new/existing outdoor seating in public space:

  • 6 Feet Between Tables AND the backs of chairs (except between chairs at same table)
    • This requirement was not in original rules so unclear whether this is legally required right now in private outdoor space/roofdecks, though the intent is clear
  • At least 6 feet (10 feet in some areas) of sidewalk clearance for pedestrians
    • Already existing rule.
    • Must use tape or some other way (e.g. planters) to denote the pedestrian path
  • 4 Feet buffer between tables/chairs and sidewalk pedestrian path; same buffer with adjacent business frontage (unless seats allowed in front of theirs)
    • This requirement was not part of original rules,
    • The buffer can include “lightweight easily movable furnishings”
  • 3 foot clearance from fire hydrants

The 6 feet chair rule and the 4 feet buffer rule will reduce the seating capacity of many spots that have already opened. 


Parklets in this context are the use of on-street parking spaces/curb lanes for outdoor dining.

In normal times they are present in some places in DC (but not for dining); restrictions in normal times include not permitted in the first and last spaces of a block (unless there’s a curb bump-out) and are not allowed on any road that has a speed limit higher than 25 MPH (e.g major roads like Pennsylvania Ave), but it’s not clear whether those restrictions apply now.

A four foot buffer (comprising of 2 feet of open space and a 2 feet wide physical barrier) separates the parklet from traffic lanes. If one space is used, the area available for tables would be roughly 6 feet wide by 12 or 16 feet long (it’s unclear the buffer size between next parking space). Two parking spaces would increase the area more than double since no buffer needed between the spaces.

The 2 feet wide physical barrier normally is something more substantial than planters and are between 36-42 inches high. Restaurants will be permitted to add umbrellas and other canopies (so long as not above 7 feet high). A platform will not be required to be built to put the outdoor space level with a sidewalk but a movable ADA-accessible ramp will be required to connect to the sidewalk.

It’s unclear precisely what, but it appears that restaurants using parklets will have to install some sort of angled-barrier between it and the next parking spot to protect the users of the dining space from lousy drivers. The diagram listed above shows a water-filled barrier (i.e. barrels), but DDOT may allow other types of barriers or even just require the restaurant to park a car in adjacent space


Although streateries should really count individual parklets, DC seems to use the term to encompass more extensive outdoor dining on the street. These are the types of streateries that can be requested by an ANC, Main Street, or BID: 1) block-long parking spaces (full-time) 2) 1-2 traffic lane closures (full-time) 3) whole street closures. These will only be allowed as follows:

  • Only where street blocks where roughly 75% of ground floor street frontage consists of commercial uses.
  • One movable ADA ramp per side of the street block
  • These closures shouldn’t interfere with driveways, delivery/unloading zones, or access to parking garages.

Contrary to some of the reactions to my reporting previously, these are not intended to be “festival” one-off but implemented either full time or on a regular weekly basis.

Parking Space/Traffic Lane Closures

If DDOT approves the closure of  curb lane or 1-2 (but not all) traffic lanes on a particular block, this closure is full time 24/7, not just at night and weekends. These partial closures are not allowed in blocks that have a fire or police station or roads that have 30 MPH speed limit or higher (Pennsylvania Ave. SE for instance).


Full Street Closures

Full closures of street blocks (already contemplated in Adams Morgan, Eastern Market, Barracks Row, and Upshur Street in Petworth) will allow seating in the street (both parking and traffic lanes) with no vehicle traffic at all.

Just like current street closure rules for festivals and block parties, however, there must be a 20 foot wide zone (about 2 lanes wide) in the middle of the street where no tables, chairs, or other structures can be placed to allow for fire trucks and other emergency vehicles to pass through or enter. When there’s not an emergency, however, people will generally be allowed to walk (and scoot or bike, if not crowded) around that empty space, providing ideally some area for social distancing. Significantly, at the end of each side of this 20 foot wide fire zone must be a big truck (often DPW snowplow trucks) with a driver inside to  protect the zone from regular traffic as well as allow emergency vehicles inside. 

These full street closures will be either full-time (24/7) or part-time: Thu/Fri 4-11p and basically all day Saturday and Sunday (10a Sat-10p Sun). However, because restaurants may be required to bring in furniture one hour before end of block closure, if implemented as written it would means the restaurants’ outdoor street seating would actually close at 10p Th-Fri, possibly midnight Sat, and 9p Sun. This may have a conflict with the current Adams Morgan plans for closing a block of 18th St every day except midnight-11a.

There is contradictory language in the guide whether full street closures are allowed on streets that have buses. Some language says explicitly they are not permitted on such streets but another bullet point implies that organizers can consider rerouting buses (Since Streetcar can’t be rerouted, there is almost no chance that this will be implemented on H Street).

ANC’s will have a chance to weigh in on any full block closures.

Dining Plazas/Alleys

These dining plazas can be requested in either “wide public spaces areas” or alleys behind restaurants. These areas can be for one specific eatery, or several of them including food trucks and sidewalk vendors.

The wide public spaces areas would be set up like large sidewalk cafes.

Roughly 30 foot wide alleys not needed for circulation (i.e., if there’s another exit available) could be closed, but they would be set up like full street closures, with a 20 foot wide fire lane as well as big trucks protecting such area. There would be a long loading/pick-up/drop-off zone on the street adjacent to the alley.