After closing crowded Wharf seafood market, DC reviewing open-air markets

Paul White with Captain White Seafood City helps set up portable fencing in the hope to force customers to social distance at the fish market at The Wharf, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington. The fish market was closed by city officials over the weekend after large crowds gathered.

Stan Kiser with Jessie Taylor Seafood helps set up portable fencing in the hope to force customers to social distance at the fish market at The Wharf, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington.

A sign at The Anthem music venue reads “We’ll Get Thru This” at The Wharf, which is almost completely empty because of the coronavirus outbreak, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington.

Paul White with Captain White Seafood City helps set up portable fencing at The Wharf, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington. The officials said the fish market may be allowed to reopen if they can show a plan for safe social distancing.

Billy White, right, and his brother Sonny White, second from right, owners of Captain White Seafood City, along with their nephew Paul White, left, and Stan Kiser with Jessie Taylor Seafood, second from left, set up portable fencing at the fish market at The Wharf, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington.

A sign posted at a market stall at the Fisherman’s Market at The Wharf in Southwest D.C.

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After weekend crowds at The Wharf’s popular seafood market led D.C. officials to temporarily close the venue, Mayor Muriel Bowser said authorities are now looking at food markets across the city.

Farmers markets, nurseries and seafood markets are deemed essential in D.C. so everyone
has access to food, but they still have to enforce rules for social distancing.

Bower said she has directed D.C.’s Food Policy Council to review all food markets across the city, including the popular Dupont Circle farmers market, and wants them to supply plans for how they’ll focus on providing essential food items and implementing social distancing.

Speaking at a news conference Monday morning, Bowser said there would be regular enforcement of social distancing at food markets.

To owners of essential businesses, Bowser said: “If you’re getting lax in how you’re implementing your operations, you will be shut down.”

The mayor’s news conference came a day after visitors to the seafood market in Southwest D.C. were met with closure signs Sunday.

Bowser said she was left with no other option but to close it. “We had to close that market because the social distancing requirements weren’t being met,” she said.

As of late Monday morning, Bowser said District officials were working with vendors and the manager of the fish market “to see if we can come to some kind of agreement … We haven’t got there yet.”

In a tweet, Jesse Taylor Seafood explained that it tried to distance customers, but when the market got too busy, they were closed, as were other vendors.

Videos and photos on social media Saturday showed hundreds of people packed close together at the market along the Southwest waterfront. Overnight, bright orange signs were posted on businesses informing vendors and customers of an emergency closure notice.

Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio posted the video below on Twitter, showing the signs.

The signs cited Bowser’s stay-at-home order closing down all but essential businesses and calling for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.


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WTOP’s Jack Moore, Rick Massimo and Dan Friedell contributed to this report

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