Mayor Responds After Restaurant Group Planned to Defy Restrictions Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

March 17, 2020 Updated: March 17, 2020
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Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser responded on Twitter after a local restaurant group said they would keep its restaurants and bars open despite the restrictions the mayor put in place amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement that has since been removed.

Bowser threatened to use law enforcement to clamp down on the Hill Restaurant Group (HRG) restaurants if they didn’t comply with the new restrictions and guidelines.

“Hill Restaurant Group — 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,” Bowser wrote on her Twitter.

“We all have an obligation to do our part to contain the spread of this global pandemic and get to the business of recovery as soon as possible. Until then, your compliance is required, and we will exercise the full force of our MPD, FEMS, DC Health and ABRA and the emergency authority to achieve it. Meanwhile, I hope your patrons will encourage you to modify your operations at the soonest, to consider grab & go and delivery options in your food serving establishments and to stick with you until our city comes out on the other side of this pandemic. We’ll all get through this together,” she added.

The mayor’s social media response was triggered after HRG openly defied the restrictions on a social media post, which has since been deleted.

“The safety and comfort of our patrons has and always will be a top concern for us at all of our HRG restaurants. Our staff has been trained to maintain even stricter safety precautions to protect our guests. In light of recent developments, all HRG restaurants will continue to operate as normal and we encourage our fellow industry folks to do the same,” The Hill Restaurant Group said in a statement originally posted on the District Industry Facebook group, according to the Washingtonian.

“We understand the gravity of effects that the Corona Virus 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 staffs burden to bear,” the group, which owns Hawk ‘n’ Dove, Lola’s, Willie’s Sports bar, and other establishments, said in the statement.

The statement came after Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser over the weekend announced that restaurants, bars, and taverns must comply with social distancing efforts, including banning gatherings of more than 250 people in their establishments, suspend bar seating, suspend service to standing patrons, limit individual table seating to no more than six people, and ensure tables are separated by at least six feet.

On Monday, Bowser responded to the restaurant group, saying that it “must comply” with the restrictions.

“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,” she wrote on Twitter.

“We all have an obligation to do our part to contain the spread of this global pandemic and get to the business of recovery as soon as possible. Until then, your compliance is required, and we will exercise the full force of our MPD, FEMS, DC Health and ABRA and the emergency authority to achieve it,” she continued.

“Meanwhile, I hope your patrons will encourage you to modify your operations at the soonest, to consider grab & go and delivery options in your food serving establishments and to stick with you until our city comes out on the other side of this pandemic. We’ll all get through this together,” Bowser wrote.

Following the mayor’s response, the Hill Restaurant Group published a statement on Facebook saying that it will be closing their establishments because it will not be able to afford keeping them open with the new restrictions.

“Due to the restrictions set forth by the Mayor’s Office, it has made it impossible for us to continue to stay open for business so we will be closing all of our restaurants to reevaluate our situation. Hill Restaurant Group employs 150 people and we were already struggling to keep everyone employed and now with the new restrictions, this has become impossible,” the group said, adding that it will try to reopen in the near future.

From NTD News

Epoch Times reporter Alan Cheung contributed to this report.