DC restaurant group planning to defy restrictions

A group that owns several restaurants in Washington, D.C., has come out against new restrictions on bars and restaurants announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying its locations will remain open.

In a statement that appears to have been shared on Facebook and was captured by Washingtonian food editor Jessica Sidman, the Hill Restaurant Group (HRG), which owns Hawk 'n' Dove, Lola's, Willie's and other eating spots, said its businesses will “continue to operate as normal.”

“The safety and comfort of our patrons has and always will be a top concern for us at all of our Hill Restaurant Group restaurants,” the group wrote. “Our staff has been trained to maintain even stricter safety precautions to protect our guests.”

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“In light of recent developments, all HRG restaurants will continue to operate as normal and we encourage our fellow industry folks to do the same,” it continued. “We understand the gravity of effects that the Corona Virus [sic] has or will have on our community especially the hospitality industry.”

“However, we will not bow down to pressure from the Mayor’s Office or any group for that matter who covertly is attempting to shut us down,” it added. “We fully support our employees and our patrons. It is not our burden to bear nor is it our staffs burden to bear.”

Bowser responded to the restaurant group on Twitter Monday morning, saying it “must” comply with the District’s health notice.

“While I recognize that all of us have been stressed beyond our immediate understanding of how coronavirus has so quickly upended our daily lives and personal and business existence — you must comply with the DC Health notice,” she said.

“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 continued. “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.”

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Bowser on Sunday announced new restrictions for bars and restaurants in the District.

In a series of tweets on Sunday afternoon, Bowser clarified the actions she said restaurants, taverns, nightclubs and multipurpose facilities in the area “must take to comply with the District of Columbia Department of Health’s (DC Health) Emergency Rulemaking to Prohibit Mass Gatherings.”

Bowser said those actions include restricting gatherings of no more than 250 people, suspending the use of bar seating as well as service to standing patrons, limiting individual table seating to no more than six people and ensuring tables that are “occupied by patrons are separated by at least six feet of distance.”

A number of states and municipalities across the country have issued similar regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Hill has reached out to HRG for comment.

--This report was updated at 10:55 p.m.