March 16, 2020 at 10:29 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. LGBTQ clubs close following new rules on coronavirus
JR.'s, gay news, Washington Blade
JR.’s is among the local gay bars that have closed due to coronavirus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Multiple D.C. gay bars announced on social media in the past few days that they have temporarily closed and the city’s only remaining LGBTQ nightclub – Ziegfeld’s-Secrets – will be required to suspend operating this week at least until the end of the month under new city rules related to the coronavirus outbreak.

In an announcement on Sunday, the D.C. Department of Health said it has revised its March 13 emergency rules prohibiting “mass gatherings” to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus in the city by requiring all venues licensed as nightclubs to suspend operations until March 31.

The revised “mass gatherings” rules retain the earlier requirement that bars and restaurants must limit their occupancy to 250 or fewer people but include several new requirements. Among them are bars and restaurants must suspend the use of “bar seating,” suspend service to standing patrons, limit individual table seating to six persons or fewer, and “ensure that tables (including booths) that are occupied by patrons are separated by at least six (6) feet of distance.”

The gay bars that announced on their websites or social media that they have decided to temporarily close following the new mass gathering rules include JR.’s at 1519 17th St., N.W.; Number Nine at 1435 P St., N.W.; Trade at 1410 14th St., N.W.; Green Lantern at 1335 Green Court, N.W.; and DC Eagle at 3701 Benning Rd., N.E. The bars Pitcher’s and A League of Her Own will be closed this week, owner Dave Perruzza told the Blade, noting he would work with ABRA to determine if the venues could reopen on Sundays.

“On Sunday, March 15, out of an abundance of caution, we made a decision to close,” both Number Nine and Trade announced on their respective websites. The two bars are owned by the same group of business partners. “We are immediately scrutinizing the new guidelines and exploring the feasibility of operating safely and responsibly,” the announcement says.

“At JR.’s, your health and wellbeing are our top priorities,” a sign posted on the gay bar’s front door on Sunday states. “As such, in accordance with the District of Columbia Department of Health’s emergency ruling, we are closed until further notice. We want to ensure that we are in compliance with these new guidelines while keeping the health and safety of our staff and patrons front and center,” the posted sign says.

“In an overabundance of caution for our customers and employees we are closing our doors,” the DC Eagle said in a statement issued on Sunday. “We must suspend operations until this pandemic crisis subsides,” the statement says, adding that the bar will do a “thorough disinfection” of its building, monitor updates from the D.C. government on coronavirus, and “take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of our patrons and everyone in the community during this unprecedented situation.”

These and most of the city’s other gay/LGBT bars and clubs, including Ziegfeld’s-Secrets at 1824 Half St., S.W., stated in earlier messages that they were taking all the precautions recommended by the city’s health department such as sanitizing surfaces and extra steps to clean their facilities.

Before the city announced the requirement that nightclubs must temporarily close, Ziegfeld’s-Secrets announced on its Facebook page on Saturday, March 14, that it was opening that night for its planned St. Patrick’s celebration.

“We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation very closely and are taking extra precautions to sanitize and clean our facilities,” the club’s Facebook message said. “Please exercise your best judgement. If you are not feeling well or have been exposed to sick persons and/or symptoms, PLEASE DO NOT COME OUT,” the message says. “Customers displaying respiratory symptoms of any kind will not be admitted and/or will be asked to leave,” the message continues.

“At ShowTime, please tip but refrain from kissing our Queens,” it concludes, referring to the club’s trademark drag shows. “Thank you for your cooperation. Let’s get through this!”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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