The Wharf’s Municipal Fish Market reopens with updated plans to aid social distancing

Signs advising shoppers to wear face masks at the Wharf’s Fisherman’s Market on April 11. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
About 50 people stood in line on the sidewalk along Maine Avenue. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
A member of the DC National Guard offers instructions at the Fisherman’s Market on April 11. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
Caution tape kept visitors from entering the Fisherman’s Market area without standing in line first.
A view of the marketplace through the fencing. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
A sign close to the market’s entrance explaining the point of social distancing. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
Strips of tape showing where people should stand in line along Maine Avenue. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
Shoppers were advised that they would have to buy precooked fish or take it home to cook their orders themselves. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

Concerning images of large crowds posted on social media last weekend prompted the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to shut down the Municipal Fish Market at the Wharf along Maine Avenue in Southwest D.C.

After making the case that they could operate safely with new social distancing measures in place — including fencing, yellow caution tape and the support of the D.C. National Guard and local police — the historic market reopened on Saturday.

While the gauntlet of fencing may have looked intimidating in an area that has historically been buzzing with shoppers buying crabs, oysters and fish, the atmosphere on Saturday afternoon was decidedly calm.

About 50 people stood in line on the sidewalk, most wearing face masks, while another 50 shoppers were inside the market area.

Tiffany Harris, of D.C., was among those taking advantage of the reopened market.

“The experience there is awesome,” she said. “You get in, if you order online, they get you in and get you out.”

Harris said she waited about 15 minutes to get in, and then spent about 10 minutes inside the market area.

“They’re working pretty good with this,” Harris said. She was encouraged to come down by a friend who told her there was extra security and strips of tape showing people where they should wait.

“Everybody is following the guidelines. I don’t see anything wrong, everyone is in good spirits,” said Harris, who purchased crabs, crab legs and shrimp. “It’s my daughter’s birthday, and this is what she asked for.”

Sheryl O’Keefe, of Alexandria, said she only came to check out the market because last weekend’s news made her curious.

“It was a pleasant experience, they were really careful with social distancing,” O’Keefe said. “You had to have your face covered while you were there, and we waited in line about 15 minutes.”

O’Keefe said it was the first time she had come to the market in over a decade. She bought oysters, lobster bisque, corn and crawfish.

“If it had been too busy, I would have left. We were like, ‘well, let’s just see how the line goes.'”

Other sections of The Wharf are open, as well. Restaurants, hotels and homes continue to be open following the District’s protocols allowing for essential businesses to remain open. The public streets are open as well, with security heightened to prevent overcrowding at the fish market.

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Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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