Restaurant Group Says It Will Defy DC's Coronavirus Rules Limiting Gatherings

As of Monday, the Hill Restaurant Group agreed to comply to Mayor Bowser's order

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The District of Columbia is enforcing tough new restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, directing nightclubs to shut down, for now, and bars and restaurants to comply with stricter occupancy rules.

In general, the rules limit how many customers can be served at a time. The rules announced Sunday afternoon include: No more than 6 people at a table; tables, including booths, must be 6 feet apart and restaurants can’t serve people who are standing.

Some restaurants have already voluntarily closed, including all of celebrity chef Jose Andres' ThinkFoodGroup establishments. Andres says employees will get at least two weeks of paid leave.

But one restaurant group said they would defy the mayor's order.

The Hill Restaurant Group which owns seven eateries on Capitol Hill, including the iconic Hawk 'n' Dove on Pennsylvania Avenue, issued a statement reading:

"We understand the gravity of effects that the Corona Virus [sic] has or will have on our community especially the hospitality industry. However, we will not bow down to pressure from the Mayor’s Office or any group for that matter who covertly is attempting to shut us down. We fully support our employees and our patrons. It is not our burden to bear nor is it our staff’s burden to bear," the statement read.

News4's Mark Segraves spoke with Tom Johnson, managing partner at Hill Restaurant Group.

“You can't put the burden on small businesses. That’s ridiculous. We won’t comply. Let her shut us down, You might as well shut us down. It’s absolutely ridiculous. People are going to do what people do.”

He employs 150 people at several restaurants: Finn's, Hawk 'n' Dove, Tortuga, Lola's, Willie's, Ophelia'sFish House and Orchid.

Mayor Muriel Bowser responded to the restaurant Monday morning on Twitter, saying compliance is required.

"We will exercise the full force of our MPD, FEMS, DC Health and ABRA…and the emergency authority to achieve it," she tweeted, referring to local police, emergency management and the alcohol and beverage board.

"While I recognize that all of us have been stressed beyond our immediate understanding of how coronavirus has so quickly upended our daily lives and personal and business existence — you must comply with the DC Health notice."

According to the Washington Post, Tom Johnson said on Monday that he would comply with Mayor Bowser's order, and that he would shut down all but three of his restaurants and lay off employees.

The DC-Area Coronavirus Outbreak in Pictures

Mayor Bowser’s order for establishments that have liquor licenses that are classified as “nightclub” or “multipurpose” license holders to close impacts about 75 businesses, approximately 35 nightclubs and 40 multipurpose establishments including Arena Stage, Howard Theater, West End Cinema, Avalon Theater and the Shakespeare Theater. Many had already closed prior to the mayor’s order.

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington has encouraged members to rethink offerings and adjust operations.

"We encourage you to think creatively about how your food offerings may look different," they said in a statement.

The trade group has also endorsed a worker relief fund to support employees who may need help as business declines, Hook Hall Helps.

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