One day before the Nationals home opener, the owner of a nearby D.C. sports bar is scrambling to keep its “streatery” open.
The owner of Walters, Jeremy Gifford, said that on Tuesday, D.C.’s Department of Transportation visited and told him the streatery was not compliant, and that “due to public safety and traffic safety,” the restaurant couldn’t use it on game days and would have to remove it.
“Streateries” have been one way for area bars and restaurants to stay afloat amid health restrictions. And Walters — located at 10 N St. SE — had been looking forward to serving the massive crowds that baseball season brings as COVID metrics continue to improve.
According to Gifford, DDOT contends that on game days, the cars leaving a nearby parking garage pose safety hazard to diners in the streatery. But there has never been a safety issue during its two-year existence, he said.
“Now it seems like DDOT is jumping through hoops to try to find Jersey walls to get put in place so that we can use it tomorrow,” he said, and it could mean the streatery has to be reduced a bit.
WTOP has contacted Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office for comment.
And for this weekend, at least, the patio will be closed to customers.
Walters had been taking reservations for this eagerly anticipated weekend, as the Nats host the New York Mets.
“Nothing’s been canceled yet,” Gifford said, “because I don’t want to be the one that has to call a bunch of people and tell them that they can’t come and sit on the streatery that they booked their reservation for two months ago.”
DDOT’s action close to Opening Day follows last month’s deadly crash in which a driver struck and killed two diners outside a restaurant along Connecticut Avenue Northwest. Gifford pointed out that game day traffic is generally slower than on non-game days.
“I don’t disagree that cars going 40 miles an hour past people sitting in the street could potentially be dangerous,” he said. “I contend that on game day people aren’t going 40 miles an hour because it’s congested.”
DDOT should have given them more time to come up with a solution, he said.
“DDOT admits they dropped the ball,” Gifford said. “Unfortunately, they dropped the ball on my eight employees that were supposed to come to work tomorrow, the 35 to 40 reservations of four to six people each — and, you know, $100,000 in revenue that would have been derived this weekend off of the streatery that was licensed and permitted and approved by the city.”
D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who represents Ward 6, has intervened on Walters’ behalf. Allen said he has spoken with DDOT’s director and asked for a better solution, and added that streateries are great for local businesses and for customers.