Phase II Re-opening Rules From The DC Mayor and ABC Board

In Hospitality, Legislation by Richard Bianco

On June 19, 2020 the Mayor issued the formal order moving DC into Phase II of reopening. Shortly thereafter, the ABC Board published its Emergency Rulemaking, implementing the order to restaurants.

Limited Indoor Dining Permitted

Of course, the biggest change for restaurants is that they can serve patrons indoors. However, there are some important rules to observe:

  • All customers must be seated at tables of no more than six (6) patrons, spaced no less than six (6) feet apart. As we know from the most recent Phase I guidance, the space between tables is to be measured from patron-to-patron and not table-to-table;

  • Customer may sit at bars (indoors and outdoors) provided no bartender is working;

  • Darts, pool, billiards, ping-pong, pinball, and other activities that are not carried out seated at tables are prohibited;

  • Parties waiting to be seated, must wait outdoors, no queuing indoors is allowed;
  • Restaurants and other licensed food establishments may serve customers up to fifty percent (50%) of their maximum capacity, as listed in their Certificate of Occupancy, not counting staff or persons sitting outdoors. The ABC Board clarifies that this limit applies to the lowest of occupancy load or seating capacity on an establishment’s certificate of occupancy;

  • The ABC Board states in its guidance (but, not the rulemaking itself) that the sale of alcohol is limited to 8:00 a.m. to midnight;

  • The Mayor’s order “encourages” restaurants to use a reservation system, but the ABC Board requires it;

  • Restaurants are encouraged to keep customer logs to facilitate contact tracing;

  • As was the case with outdoor dining, establishments are required to offer a menu with three (3) prepared food items and that each table have at least one food item. Buffets continue to be prohibited;

  • All employees including kitchen staff must wear a mask at all times and guests should likewise wear masks, except when eating or drinking;

Entertainment Waivers

Finally, the ABC Board prohibits any live music or entertainment. But, the Mayor’s Order contains a provision allowing for a waiver application to hold an arts, entertainment or cultural event. This suggests that only venues without an ABC license will be eligible for such a waiver. Provided that is the case, this rule impacts multipurpose facility licensees (Class CX,DX) which are issued to theaters, galleries, or cultural activity venues.

As was the case with past Orders and Rulemakings, the Phase 2 regulations and guidance are broadly written and subject to varied interpretation. If you have questions about the applicability of the new rules, please contact me, or book an appointment to speak with me using our online scheduling tool.