April 17, 2020 at 12:31 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bowser extends coronavirus closings to May 15
emergency order, gay news, Washington Blade
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the city’s emergency order requiring all non-essential businesses to shut down on-site operations until at least May 15. (Photo by AFGE via Flickr)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Wednesday that she has extended the city’s emergency order requiring all non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, to shut down on-site operations until at least May 15.

The extension came in the form of a new mayoral order that extends the city’s state of emergency and public health emergency through May 15 to assist in D.C.’s effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The new order, which Bowser announced at a news conference, also expands her earlier order requiring the wearing of a face mask or face covering to employees, customers, and visitors of hotels, retail food sellers, taxis, ride-sharing companies, and other private transportation providers.

Earlier this month the mayor called on all city residents to wear a face covering when going outdoors and visiting stores or other retail outlets considered essential and which have been allowed to remain open such as grocery stores, outdoor farmer’s markets, and pharmacies.

At the time the new order was announced, the mayor’s office released its latest coronavirus data for the previous day, April 14, which included 139 new positive coronavirus cases, bringing the city’s overall positive case total as of that date to 2,197. The new data included five new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the city’s total COVID-19 deaths to 72.

The city’s latest coronavirus data show that 54 of the individuals who have died, or 75 percent, are African Americans.

Among the businesses forced to close during the emergency are the city’s 12 gay bars and one gay nightclub. Like all other D.C. nightclubs, the gay nightclub Ziegfeld’s-Secrets is not allowed to provide carryout food or beverage service under city rules that nightlife advocates have called unfair and unnecessary.

Since Ziegfeld’s-Secrets has not provided onsite food service during its many years of operations, it was not expected to attempt to provide carryout service during the shutdown period. But a number of other nightclubs, including the LGBTQ-friendly DC9 on U Street, N.W., have called on the city to change its ban on carryout food and beverage service for nightclubs. Bars and restaurants are allowed to provide carryout or delivery services. Many of them are doing that, saying it is providing them with income to hold them over until the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

However, similar to about a dozen other D.C. nightclubs that provide nude dance performers, Ziegfeld’s-Secrets, which has nude male dance performers, is among the clubs that are ineligible to apply for D.C. emergency grants to assist businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

D.C. officials said the city as long ago as the 1990s adopted a policy similar to the U.S. Small Business Administration that bans sexually oriented businesses, including adult bookstores and strip clubs, from receiving emergency relief grants or loans from the city. The mayor’s office and the D.C. Council have so far declined requests by nightlife advocates to rescind that restriction.

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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