DC Alcohol Regulators Investigate After Viral Video Shows Crowd Cheer for Officers at Bar

Concerns arose that patrons weren't social distancing in a viral video that shows a crowd of bar patrons clapping and chanting "Back the blue" at Harry's pub

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D.C.'s alcohol regulation authority is investigating after a video shared by President Donald Trump showed patrons cheering for police officers inside a crowded downtown bar and restaurant.

Customers, many without masks, at Harry’s pub chanted “Back the blue” as uniformed D.C. police officers wearing face coverings walked toward the bar surrounded by people, the video shows.

That video, posted Tuesday by author and podcaster David J. Harris Jr., has been viewed more than 696,000 times and retweeted more than 15,000 times, including by the president. Many commented that it was nice to see police officers celebrated.

But it caught the attention of others, including D.C. authorities, because of concerns that patrons weren't social distancing.

It’s not clear if the restaurant violated any of the coronavirus prevention rules put in place by Mayor Muriel Bowser, which include limiting indoor seating to half capacity, prohibiting serving standing customers and banning most bar service. The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) says it is investigating.

“The matter has been assigned to our enforcement division for investigation,” spokesman Jared J. Powell said.

The restaurant didn’t respond to an email and a manager was not immediately available to comment.

The video clip begins with at least two dozen patrons on their feet clapping and cheering for four D.C. officers who enter the establishment, located about a block from the Trump International Hotel. Then, a chant of “Back the blue” breaks out as officers tip their hats and fist bump some patrons.

Toward the end of the video clip, Harris approaches the officers and says their work is appreciated.

“That’s how us Trumpsters roll,” he says, apparently referring to President Trump.

Harris did not respond to inquiries.

The Metropolitan Police Department declined to comment on the circumstances of the video.

“At this time we don’t have the full context for this video,” a spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, as the video circulated widely online, an ABRA investigator issued a verbal warning to Harry's after reporting that two tables on the sidewalk weren't properly spaced and the reservation system was insufficient.

It was the second verbal warning given to Harry's by regulators.

On July 3, Harry’s was issued a verbal warning by ABRA for having insufficient space between tables.

Restaurants found to violate the mayor’s social distancing orders first get a verbal warning and then could face fines of $1,000 for a first offense and $2,000 for a second offense.

In the past, Bowser has said she would rather not have police officers enforce social distancing. MPD referred NBC Washington to ABRA and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for questions on enforcing the mayor’s orders.

Under Bowser's orders, businesses are supposed to enforce social distance rules and refuse customers who won't comply.

D.C. agencies can levy fines against businesses that violate the rules. However, ABRA says one of their investigators must witness the violation firsthand to issue a citation or refer the matter to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

"The public is encouraged to submit complaints by phone, email, or online. ABRA investigators respond 24/7," a spokesman said.

Residents may include video footage and photographs with their complaints.

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