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DC Mayor Feuds with Restaurant Group for Refusing to Comply with New Restrictions

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Posted: Mar 16, 2020 1:30 PM
DC Mayor Feuds with Restaurant Group for Refusing to Comply with New Restrictions

Source: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Out of an abundance of caution, mayors and governors across the country are closing up shop, literally. The coronavirus is spreading more quickly than many of us anticipated, and the time for social distancing is now.

It's no exception here in the nation's capital. Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Muriel Bowser announced new sweeping restrictions across the district over the weekend. In the immediate future, she explained, restaurants will not be permitted to seat more than six people at a table; tables, including booths, must be six feet apart, and restaurants can't serve people who are standing.

But the Hill Restaurant Group has other plans. In a new statement this weekend, the entity announced that it was going to operate as normal and encouraged its competitors to do the same.

The mayor measured her response, but she's clearly peeved.

"We all have an obligation to do our part to contain the spread of this global pandemic and get to the business of recovery as soon as possible," she added. "Until then, your compliance is required, and we will exercise the full force of our MPD, FEMS, DC Health and ABRA....and the emergency authority to achieve it. Meanwhile, I hope your patrons will encourage you to modify your operations at the soonest, to consider grab & go and delivery options in your food serving establishments."

The Hill Restaurant Group oversees seven restaurants in the district, including Finn's, Hawk' n' Dove, Tortuga, Lola's, Willie's, Ophelia's Fish House and Orchid.

"You can't put the burden on small businesses," Hill Restaurant Group managing partner Tom Johnson told NBC Washington. "That's ridiculous. We won't comply. Let her shut us down. You might as well shut us down. It's absolutely ridiculous. People are going to do what people do."

But D.C. residents appear to be largely siding with the local officials and are planning to boycott Hill Restaurant Group in the future.

In addition to the tighter guidelines for diners, Bowser demanded all nightclubs be shuttered for the time being.