DC to lift most capacity restrictions May 21; fully reopen in June

D.C. plans to lift a slew of coronavirus capacity restrictions starting May 21, with a full reopening to come in June.

Next Friday, District restaurants, places of worship, gyms, pools, libraries, weddings and special events will not face any capacity limits. Meanwhile, bars and nightclubs will operate under a 50% capacity limit, Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said on Twitter.

Capacity at both Nats Park and Audi Field will be expanded to 36% beginning May 14 for Nats and D.C. United games, respectively. That same day, capacity at Capital One Arena will be expanded to 25% for Wizards and Caps games.

And all restrictions will go away June 11, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a Monday briefing.

“On Friday, May 21, we will be turning on substantially more activity in the District,” Bowser said. “And we anticipate three weeks following that, on June 11, that we will be able to all turn up activity in the District all the way.”

Does that mean dancing at weddings? Yes.

Masks, however, aren’t going anywhere.

Bowser said wearing a mask will still be required.

Asked whether a letter written to her office by IMP, The Anthem, Monumental Sports and other businesses asking for reopening metrics had any impact on Monday’s announcement, Bowser said: “It didn’t.”

“Let me say what has an impact,” the mayor said before going back to a slide showing D.C.’s COVID-19 case rates. “You’ll notice, and I give all credit, as I always have, to D.C. residents and businesses who have followed the public health advice, and they’ve even outperformed where we thought we’d be on this date. And that’s how we can get closer to reopening because of the precipitous fall in our case rate.”

Bowser said D.C. government employees will return to offices July 12.

Of course, it remains to be seen how D.C.’s restaurants and bars will fare during the reopening, a point raised by the Walters Sports Bar account on Twitter.

“When you show up to your favorite restaurant on May 21 thinking everything will be back to normal. It won’t,” the account tweeted. “Most places are drastically understaffed, that will take time to fix. Not trying to rain on a good day, happy we’re in this position, but there’s a lot of work to do.”

Michael Waters, owner of Across the Pond in Dupont Circle, said it has been impossible to find one good person, let alone full staff. Getting back to normal, he explained, means not only resolving staffing issues, but also resolving supply-chain issues.

“Seafood’s a great example,” said Waters. “For me, I took crab cakes and, and salmon and stuff off the menu, because the prices were really high. Because the purveyors sourcing, their factories are running at 50%.”

Waters hopes that lifting restrictions doesn’t mean the end of District protections on things like utilities and rent.

“I feel that people will come out,” he said, “but it’s not going to be a stampede for everyone running to the bars and restaurants. It’s going to be a trickle effect that more and more people feel comfortable, they get fully vaccinated, then it’s going to be like first gear, second gear, third gear.”

Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said D.C. is “quickly and enthusiastically approaching containment of the virus in our jurisdiction.”

She added that the District still has to be able to quickly identify new cases, identify close contacts and have them quarantine so that they do not spread the virus.

“And we want to be able to sustain that seven days a week, so that no matter when your diagnosis comes, we can make contact with you within a day and with your contacts within two days,” Nesbitt said.

The mayor’s full situation report is available online.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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