May 28, 2020 at 11:36 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bowser lifts stay-at-home order in first phase of D.C. reopening
reopening, gay news, Washington Blade
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the spread of coronavirus in D.C. has decreased to a level that allows the city to begin its Phase 1 reopening. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Wednesday that the “community spread” of the coronavirus in the nation’s capital has decreased to a level that allows the city to begin its Phase 1 reopening process on Friday, May 29, that includes lifting the mayor’s ‘stay-at-home’ order issued in March.

“During Phase One, individuals living in, working in, and visiting Washington, D.C. are no longer ordered to stay at their residences,” a 10-page Phase One Reopening Order released by the mayor’s office says.

The original stay-at-home order allowed city residents and visitors to leave their residences or place of lodging for reasons considered urgent such as doctor visits, purchasing essential supplies such as food and medicine, and being tested for the coronavirus at special testing stations.

The new order issued by the mayor allows people to leave home for nonessential purposes, including patronizing certain businesses, which the order says may now reopen with restrictions.

In addition to the current status of being allowed to provide carryout and delivery service, restaurants, taverns, and nightclubs will now be allowed to provide outdoor dining if they are already approved to provide outdoor service by the city under the Phase 1 reopening order.

The order says outdoor dining customers must be seated, place orders, and be served at tables seating no more than six people. All tables must be at least six feet apart and the establishments must put in place sanitization and disinfection protocols, the order says.

Although the order doesn’t say so directly, city officials said they believe roof decks and outside patios would be considered an “outdoor” space allowed under the order for serving customers seated at tables. Bowser said a clarification would be released on the use of patios and roof decks later this week.

Several of the city’s gay bars and restaurants, some of which have been providing carryout food service since the coronavirus shutdown order was put in place in March, have indicated they plan to offer outdoor service, including on patio or roof deck spaces.

In a development that could raise objections by some customers, the mayor’s latest order says establishments that will be allowed to reopen for outdoor dining are “encouraged to keep customer logs to facilitate contact tracing” by the D.C. Department of Health that would likely include the customers’ name, phone number and possible email address.

Under Phase 1, barber shops and hair salons would be allowed to reopen by appointment only with no waiting allowed inside the establishments, the order says. It says “nonessential” retail stores would also be allowed to offer curbside sales but customers will not be allowed to shop inside the nonessential retail establishments such as clothing stores.

Parks, tennis courts, dog parks and fields will be allowed to reopen but public pools, playgrounds, and recreation centers may not reopen during Phase 1, the order says.

“COVID-19 is still in our community and in our region and in our nation,” Bowser said at the May 27 press conference. “And the public health emergency will continue. Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited,” she said.

“So as we begin reopening it cannot be said enough that every single one of us has a role to play in protecting ourselves and each other,” the mayor continued. “It is critical that people wear masks, social distance and continue to practice good hygiene. We have a shared responsibility to stop the spread of the virus even as we reopen.”

One of the LGBTQ establishments that plans to reopen on Friday with seating on its roof deck is the Dirty Goose located at 913 U St., N.W., according to owner Justin Parker. Parker said Dirty Goose has been offering carryout service. He said he was hopeful that the additional revenue generated by the reopening of his large roof deck that attracted a large number of customers before the coronavirus shutdown will be a benefit to his business and regular customers.

“The carryout has been good for us during this time, but right now good is relative,” he told the Washington Blade. “We are only achieving 20 percent of our normal monthly sales, but it has at least provided a revenue source and has allowed us to connect with the wonderful LGBTQ+ community from a distance and provide our employees with a chance to recoup some hours,” he said.

Other gay establishments expected to reopen their roof decks for dining service were Pitchers at 2317 18th St., N.W. and Uproar at 639 Florida Avenue, N.W. The gay bars JR.’s at 1519 17th St., N.W. and Trade at 1410 14th St., N.W. were expected to open ground level outdoor spaces under the Phase 1 reopening order.

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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