Mayor Forces Defiant Hill Restaurant Group’s Compliance with New Restrictions
By Larry Janezich
On Sunday, Tom Johnson, managing partner of the Hill Restaurant Group, issued a statement defying the Mayor’s order restricting operations of bars, restaurants and nightclubs (see below). The group comprises seven restaurants on or near Capitol Hill: Hawk ‘n’ Dove, Finn McCool’s, Lola’s, Orchid, Tortuga, Willie’s and Ophelia’s Fish House. On Monday morning, Mayor Bowser personally called out the restaurant group, leading to a hasty retreat.
DC Health Advisory says restaurants and bars “must” limit occupancy to 250, suspend bar seating, suspend service to standing patrons, and limit occupancy to tables and booths six feet apart.
This morning, the Mayor responded personally and directly by tweet, as follows:
“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.
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.”
Johnson’s statement, on behalf of the Hill Restaurant group, first reported by Jessica Sidman of Washingtonian, is as follows:
“The safety and comfort of our patrons has and always will be a top concern for us at our Hill Restaurant Group restaurants. Our staff has been trained to maintain even stricter precautions to protect our guests. In light of recent developments, all Hill Restaurant Group restaurants will continue to operate as normal and we encourage our fellow industry folks to do the same. 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 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 out staff’s burden to bear. – Hill Restaurant Group”
After the Mayor’s tweet, Johnson said he would comply by closing half his restaurants and laying off staff, according to reporter Fenit Nirappil of the Washington Post.