DC restaurant group says it will comply with restrictions after mayor's warning

DC restaurant group says it will comply with restrictions after mayor's warning
© Getty Images

The managing partner of the Hill Restaurant Group (HRG), which owns several food spots in Washington, D.C., said on Monday that it will comply with new restrictions on restaurants and bars announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser after the business initially said it would “continue to operate as normal.”

Tom Johnson told The Washington Post that means HRG — which owns Hawk ‘n’ Dove, LOLA’s, Ophelia’s Fish House and several other food establishments in the District — will have to close several of its restaurants and cut down on staff to stay afloat.

“I have to start letting people go. I don’t have the wherewithal to pay them,” he said. “It’s literally going to put me out of business. I’m going to go bankrupt.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Hill has reached out to HRG for comment. 

Prior to Johnson’s comments, HRG captured headlines Monday morning after it said it would continue to operate business as usual despite the new restrictions.

“We understand the gravity of effects that the Corona Virus has or will have on our community especially the hospitality industry,” the group said in a statement initially posted in a private industry group on Facebook, according to The Post. “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. We fully support our employees and our patrons. It is not our burden to bear nor is it our staffs burden to bear.” 

Once the statement gained attention on Twitter, Bowser weighed in on the matter, saying the restaurant group “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.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

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

In a series of tweets, Bowser detailed the actions 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 to 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.” 

D.C. is one of growing list of jurisdictions across the country that have issued similar regulations on restaurants, bars and other facilities an attempt to limit the COVID-19 outbreak. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut recently announced they all would close entertainment venues in their states to curb the spread of the virus, which has infected thousands in the country.

However, the preventative steps by local and state government to crack down on the outbreak have sparked worry for local restaurants and other businesses, who say the economic effects could be devastating.