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DC Reopening Updates, PPP and more 5/21

May 21, 2020

Dear Operator, 

On Thursday 5/21 in DC, Mayor Bowser shared the official reopening recommendations from the ReOpen DC Committee that outlines what the stages/phases of reopening will look like, and stated that barring any spikes DC could begin a phased reopening on Friday, May 29th. We continue to meet outlined markers and are 11-days into a 14-day decline that is required before entering Stage One. 

Stage One will look similar to how you are currently operating with outdoor on-premise dining permitted with physical distancing and safeguards. Safeguards are defined as: physical distancing of at least six feet, use of masks in public spaces, stringent sanitation and hygiene practices. Creative outdoor allowances in addition to sidewalk cafe use is being workshopped by the Mayor and city agencies as we speak taking into consideration the need to encourage more outdoor space combined with thoughtful measures to preserve easy access for operators who may choose to only continue with curbside pick up and delivery.  

We know that many of you will have questions about the specific operational protocol around these recommended requirements. The District will release a reopening checklist tomorrow for businesses, employees, and customers to help prepare operators as they approach phased opening. Once released, we will share with all of you.  In addition, on Tuesday, we will have more clarity in terms of protocol, business and employer requirements and enforcement as well as detail as to how to operationalize guidance specified in each stage.  

The recommendations shared today by Mayor Bowser are not policy, but rather guidance offered to the government by the ReOpen Task Force to help set standards for moving forward to reopen the City on multiple fronts. The stages are a baseline and with every stage there is an opportunity to refine and make sure it makes sense from a public health and economic standpoint, which is what we fully intend to do. This is especially true as we move past Stage One. 

Stage One Requirements for Restaurants: 

  • Outdoor table service only, with physical distancing and safeguards (Safeguards defined above)
  • Buffets are prohibited
  • Maximum table size of 6
  • Standing or seating at outdoor bars is prohibited
  • Request that customer provide names and contact information, and record time of arrival

Stage Two Requirements for Restaurants: 

*These are baseline recommendations and can be amended as required. 

  • Indoor seating with up to 50% capacity allowed with safeguards and physical distancing (Safeguards defined above)
  • Outdoor seating permitted
  • Bar seating permitted with individuals 6 feet apart (standing at the bar is still prohibited)
  • Request that customer provide names and contact information, and record time of arrival
  • Maximum table size of 10; parties larger than 6 must be from the same household
  • Buffets permitted if employee serves the food
  • Bringing alcohol from home is prohibited

Stage Three Requirements for Restaurants: 

*These are baseline recommendations and can be amended as required. 

  • Indoor seating up to 50% capacity with safeguards
  • Restaurants may request case by case requests for capacity expansion for approval consistent with physical distancing requirements. 
  • Request that customer provide names and contact information, and record time of arrival
  • Outdoor seating permitted

The Committee also provided additional recommended guidance, such as: all food handling staff should wear masks and gloves, sanitizing food surface areas every 2 hours, utilizing reservations and sanitation of common items between seatings, using single use items, and displaying safety pledge signage that outlines a promise and shared responsibility between the restaurant and customer that prioritizes public health and safety. Click here and turn to the last page to see the recommended sample pledge.

Click here for the full Reopening documents. Click here for the restaurant specific guidelines. 

We understand that there are a lot of questions about bars, taverns, and nightclubs, and we are working with the Mayor's Office and city agencies to clarify the terminology so operators understand what space can be used. Our recommendation continues to be that tavern licensees with a substantial food service component be classified as restaurants for purposes of phasing. Bar seating at restaurants cannot be used until Stage Two when indoor dining is permitted. 

Bars and nightclubs will remain closed through Stages One and Two, and can open in Stage Three with capacity limits not to exceed 50% with 5 people per 1,000 square feet. 

Now that we know what the stages of reopening will look like in DC, we encourage you to take this time to plan what each stage could look like for your restaurant. Start to get your floor plans, operational plans, and rehiring plans in place now, so you are best prepared to move between stages. Timing between stages is unclear, however you should plan accordingly as if there is swifter momentum in graduating to the next stage, if you choose to. 

As you plan specifically for Stages 2 and 3 where restaurants can reopen dining rooms at 50% capacity, you should also make a plan for what operating at increased capacity looks like for you as Stage Three requires the restaurant to request expanded capacity approval beyond 50%.

ReOpen DC is working on a model to help supply the businesses in DC with necessary PPE -- Personal Protective Equipment --  which refers to safety equipment worn to minimize exposure, including face masks and gloves. We are also working with local leaders in Maryland and Northern Virginia to provide small businesses with PPE materials.  

Tomorrow we will be sharing resources including checklists, toolkits, and recommendations for DC operators that will be helpful as you decide what phase is right for you to reopen. 

Across the region, we anticipate hearing updates from leaders in Northern Virginia in the coming days as well, as the Chairs and Mayors of the Northern Virginia jurisdictions pushed entering Phase One of reopening to midnight on May 28th, while the remainder of the state started VA’s Phase One plan last Friday.  Similarly, Prince George’s County extended its stay-at-home orders last week until June 1. Montgomery County still has not released an official reopen date. Stay tuned for additional information. 

On PPP, I want to provide a few clarifications based on questions I received over the past couple of days:  First, yes, you are able to use your PPP loan to cover rent payments.

If you are an owner or partner in a partnership you are never supposed to be on payroll and are supposed to receive a guaranteed payment. You can still pay yourself a guaranteed payment with the PPP loan, but cannot put yourself on payroll. You must certify that you are not making more than 8-weeks of your guaranteed payment of your compensation from 2019. 

In closing, a friendly reminder to help us spread the message of YOUR gratitude and thanks to regional diners for standing by and supporting local restaurants during this time. We need you to participate in our expansive regional recovery marketing campaign, which is rooted in 1) Gratitude, 2) Public Trust & Best Practices, and lastly 3) Recovery & Dining Out. In collaboration with our great partners at Events DC, this includes a simple social media campaign with tools that your team can use to plug-in easily, post, and tag to be part of the gratitude messaging, or submit a quick video for inclusion in our PSA. RAMW and Events DC will be sharing all of your messaging as we build visibility across the platforms. Please see details here. 

If you have any questions please reach out to us at to ensure we can answer your questions in a timely manner. 

Be safe. Be kind.