Flowers bloom and vaccines increase, but return to DC normal will take time

As the weather warms and the promise of spring’s renewal is bolstered by increased optimism about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, several of the symbolic centers of “life in D.C.” won’t return to pre-pandemic normal for the foreseeable future.

Unless something dramatic changes, the April 1 home-opener for the Washington Nationals against the New York Mets will be played at Nats Park, without any fans in the stands.

While the District and the Nats are working on ways to safely get some fans back into the ballpark, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she wants to make sure the city is able to “mitigate” the risk of coronavirus spread, in loosening restrictions.

Monday, Bowser is expected to announce a loosening of COVID-19 gathering capacities, focusing on outdoor recreation opportunities. They are not expected to affect restaurants or live music venues.

While visitors and residents are free to walk around The Wharf waterfront in Southwest D.C., the popular destination is operating far below its potential.

Restaurants are currently capped at 25% of their indoor capacity, and The Anthem hasn’t held a concert since the start of the pandemic, last March.

Last October, the District instituted a pilot program, that enabled six venues to host live entertainment, with drastically-reduced capacities.

By late November, the pilot program was shut-down after a spike in coronavirus cases.

With the arrival of vaccines, Bowser has not announced when live music will be able return to indoor venues in the District, or under what restrictions.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, head of communications at The Anthem, 9:30 Club, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the National Independent Venue Association said it’s unclear when the Wharf’s most visible tenant will again host shows.

“I can make no predictions on when we’ll be able to reopen,” Schaefer told WTOP.

“I don’t know what the city is going to deem, or when bands will be doing national tours. All those dates are unknowable. It would be absolutely wonderful if it would be fall, but if you could underline that I make no predictions,” Schaefer said.

Lawmakers in Montgomery County approved new “phased” COVID-19 regulations on Friday that loosen some restrictions immediately, but keep current capacity limits at restaurants in place for the next two weeks.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced earlier that all statewide capacity limits on restaurants, retailers, religious facilities and other establishments would be lifted Friday evening.

In Virginia, indoor entertainment venues are capped at 30% capacity or 250 people, while outdoor venues can have up 1000 attendees, utilizing the 30% limit.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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