None of D.C.’s currently operating gay bars or restaurants are located within the downtown and Capitol Hill areas designated as lockdown zones associated with the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-election Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
But sources familiar with the city’s bars and restaurants, including nightlife advocate Mark Lee, say the unprecedented number of city streets that have been closed in the lockdown zones and the wide swath of the central business district shut down or disrupted in the lockdown zones has had a negative impact on businesses that are not within the lockdown zones.
Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a trade association representing bars, restaurants and other hospitality-related businesses who was furloughed due to the economic downturn, noted the inaugural related disruptions took place at a time when D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had temporarily reinstated a city ban on indoor operation of bars and restaurants related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bowser, pointing to a rising number of coronavirus cases in the D.C. area, announced on Dec. 18 that indoor dining and indoor bar service would be banned from Dec. 23 until Jan. 15 to prevent further spread of the virus during the peak Christmas and New Year’s holiday period.
The mayor extended the indoor service ban for one week, until Jan. 22, in response to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and reported threats that extremist agitators would return to disrupt the Jan. 20 inaugural ceremony at the Capitol.
David Perruzza, owner of the Adams Morgan gay sports bar and restaurant Pitchers and its adjoining lesbian bar A League of Her Own, said the creation of the lockdown zones did not appear to have an impact on his already limited outdoor service. Like other bar and restaurant owners, Perruzza said the ban on indoor service has had a negative impact on his business and he was looking forward to the lifting of that ban this Friday, Jan 22.
Most but not all of the city’s 13 gay bars or restaurants remained open during the indoor dining ban, but observers have said the gay and other bars and restaurants would likely be forced to shut down if the indoor ban was extended. Most say outdoor dining service is limited at best during the winter months.
John Guggenmos, co-owner of the D.C. gay bars Number 9 and Trade, which are located in the Logan Circle area, said he and his business partners decided to temporarily close Number 9 during the indoor service ban while keeping Trade open. Trade has an outdoor patio in the rear of its building, which is exempt from the indoor service ban.
But Guggenmos said he and his partners decided to close Trade while Number 9 remained closed during the inaugural week in an abundance of caution in the event that citywide disruptions would surface related to the inauguration.
“President Trump has decimated our protections and our rights and has given winks and nods to all of the hate groups,” Guggenmos said. “If you don’t think we’re a target of the hate groups, people just haven’t been paying attention,” he said.
“So, we first and foremost wanted to keep our staff, our neighbors, and our patrons safe,” he said. Guggenmos said both Trade and Number 9 would reopen on Friday when the indoor dining and indoor service ban for bars and restaurants was scheduled to be lifted and the inaugural events would have ended.
The Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 did not return to D.C. to disrupt the inauguration.
“While there are no currently operating gay nightlife venues located within the inaugural lockdown zone, the bars and restaurants that are within that center-city core have been hit hard with yet another financial setback due to the downtown closure,” Lee told the Washington Blade.
“Worse for all venues throughout the city, though, is that the short-term halt to indoor service was extended an additional week due to these inauguration security precautions combined with the cold winter weather making outdoor dining impractical,” Lee said. “The scheduled restoration of service inside restaurants and bars beginning this week on Friday, Jan. 22, is the only thing that is giving the city’s economically devastated hospitality establishments any hope they can hang on into the future,” he said.