D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s announcement on Dec. 18 that indoor dining and indoor bar service for the city’s bars and restaurants would be banned beginning Dec. 23 until at least Jan. 15 came about one week after one or more unidentified vandals damaged the heaters used by the D.C. gay bar The Dirty Goose for its outdoor seating area.
The two developments were not related to each other. But Keaton Fedak, general manager of The Dirty Goose, told D.C.’s Channel 7 News last Friday that the two things appeared to be more signs of the trials and tribulations faced by his and other similar establishments this year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
He told the TV news station the vandalism felt personal “because I work here every day and we put so much time and effort into creating this nice environment.”
Kristen Metzger, a spokesperson for D.C. police, told the Washington Blade police have no information “to suggest this incident is motivated by hate bias in relation to the LGBTQ community.”
Justin Parker, co-owner of The Dirty Goose, told the Washington Blade he and his staff have a “possible idea” who vandalized their outdoor seating area that D.C. bars and restaurants refer to as their “Streatery” because the city is allowing them to use space on the street that had previously been used for cars to park.
“Damnit, we are trying our HARDEST to create a fun, cozy, and comfortable atmosphere during the hardest year ever,” The Dirty Goose says in a Dec. 15 Facebook posting. “And, yet still, some people are just not having it. We will be closed this evening [Dec. 15] as we wait for replacement parts for our fire pits due to last night’s vandalism.” The posting said the bar would reopen on Thursday, Dec. 17.
In response to Mayor Bowser’s order banning indoor dining and bar service until Jan. 15, The Dirty Goose is among the D.C. gay bars that have said they will remain open for outdoor service and carryout and delivery service, according to a separate Dec. 19 posting on its Facebook page.
Douglas Schantz, owner of Nellie’s Sports Bar, another gay bar located on U Street across the street from The Dirty Goose, said he too plans to remain open for carryout and delivery service during the ban on indoor service.
David Perruzza, owner of the Adams Morgan gay sports bar Pitchers and its adjoining lesbian bar A League of Her Own, announced in a Facebook posting on Dec. 19 that he will not stay open during the indoor dining ban.
“To all of our customers, we thank you for all of your loyalty and support,” his Facebook message says. “We will be temporarily shut down until January 15th. We simply can’t survive without indoor dining,” his message says.
One day earlier, on Dec. 18, Perruzza posted another message urging customers to come to Pitchers and A League of Her Own last weekend, the last weekend before the indoor service ban would take effect.
“Please come out this weekend and support the staff who will basically be out of jobs for Christmas due to the mayor’s new restrictions,” the posting says. “Honestly, we don’t know where she is going that she thinks we are all packed, but we have been struggling,” Perruzza’s message continues. “Now this will definitely hurt us and the employees even more,” the message says. It asks customers and supporters to consider contributing to a GoFundMe site that the bar set up to support its employees.
Perruzza is among the city’s bar and restaurant owners who have raised strong objections to the mayor’s decision to reinstate a ban on indoor dining and bar service after lifting an earlier indoor service ban put in place earlier this year. Restaurant and bar representatives also raised strong objections to Bowser’s separate order earlier this month banning the sale of alcoholic beverages in bars and restaurants after 10 p.m.
Restaurant and bar representatives have argued that there is no scientific data or convincing evidence that indoor dining or the serving of alcoholic beverages in restaurants and bars after 10 p.m. has resulted in a higher rate of coronavirus infection. Perruzza is among those who have argued that action being taken by the mayor to restrict and now close indoor service will likely result in people gathering at private parties in people’s homes, where there are no safeguards for preventing the spread of the virus such as social distancing and mask wearing rules that are being followed in restaurants and bars.
When asked about this at a press conference on Monday, Bowser disputed such arguments, saying indoor dining at restaurants has been consistently cited as one of the top four types of activities found by contact tracing to be the source of coronavirus infection.
“So, we have been dialing back for several weeks, many weeks, all types of activities,” Bowser said referring to the city’s response to the spike in new cases in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs.
“So, we’re very focused right now like jurisdictions all around us and all around the country how to dial back even more activity,” she said. “And we know this is a limited time and we’re asking everybody to make this sacrifice so that hospital workers won’t be overwhelmed following these holidays.”
Bowser noted that the latest restrictions continue to allow outdoor dining and carryout and delivery services for restaurants and bars.
Gay nightlight advocate Mark Lee, who served as coordinator of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a trade association for local restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, until he was furloughed due to the COVID economic fallout, called the mayor’s latest action an unnecessary burden on restaurants and bars.
“D.C. restaurant and bar operators are exasperated about Mayor Bowser’s decision to shutter all indoor service, and both hundreds of nightlife venues and thousands of hospitality service professionals are now economically skating on even thinner financial ice they can hear cracking under them,” Lee said.
“With most outdoor service options increasingly unfeasible for venues and unpopular with patrons in the winter cold, and with carryout and delivery not a financially sustainable business activity, it’s a very bleak situation confronting our community establishments already drowning in a sea of rising debt,” Lee said.
“The ultimate irony,” Lee added, “is that closing down bars and restaurants, including gay establishments, will only spawn the proliferation of more private gatherings in people’s homes, which is the number one cause of infection.”
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