Blues bar Madam’s Organ asks DC for OK to reopen with vaccine passports

The owner of the popular Madam’s Organ blues bar and restaurant in Adams Morgan said he has asked D.C.’s mayor for permission to fully reopen by requiring every person in the club to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

“We’re not asking for a government-mandated vaccine passport,” wrote owner Bill Duggan, in a Facebook post that he said was emailed to the mayor. “We’re asking for permission to open with our strict safety guidelines.”

The request comes as indoor, limited live music is set to resume in the District on May 1. Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced seated live entertainment venues will reopen, with a capacity limit of 25% or 500 people, whichever is less.

Until now, some live entertainment was allowed, after a venue received a waiver through the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Bowser said D.C. is reviewing the current requirement that seats be more than 30 feet from the stage.

Duggan said his staff, musicians, and music lovers “have been abiding by the COVID restrictions and patiently awaiting the day that our doors could reopen.”

“That day is here — or very near,” said Duggan. “We now have vaccines.”

Duggan said his business has assisted employees in getting vaccinated, and he has heard that many bands are 100% vaccinated, so they can return to performing when venues allow it.

“We want everyone to be safe and we are willing to do the work to guarantee that safety, if you allow us,” Duggan wrote.

“We already check IDs at the door. ABRA [DC’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration] is already trained to guarantee that we do,” wrote Duggan.

ABRA is already ensuring that COVID-related protocols are being followed.

“Our door person can now also check that each and every employee, artist and patron shows proof of vaccination before being allowed inside,” said Duggan. “Checking for compliance on this rule, if allowed, would not add much further burden,” to the District agency.

Duggan said approving the idea also would benefit the District’s efforts in convincing residents of the need to get vaccinated.

“This would be a cost-free and very effective incentive to vaccinate,” said Duggan. “A return to semi-normalcy, if, by just getting vaccinated, employees could return to work, artists could perform and patrons could again visit their favorite bar, restaurant or business.”

“It’s a win-win-win-win,” wrote Duggan. “And so, in the words of the great James Brown … Please, Please, Please.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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