Restaurants eagerly awaiting the return of fans at Nationals Park in D.C. will have to wait a little longer after Opening Day was delayed due to positive COVID-19 cases within the team. But they remain hopeful that they will soon see a much-needed spike in business.
“It’s pivotal to the business, really,” Justin Cox, CEO and founder of Atlas Brew Works on Half Street, said of the baseball crowds.
Opening Day is something his new restaurant hasn’t had a chance to experience yet, since it opened last March, days before COVID-19 led to stay-at-home orders and other pandemic restrictions.
“We’re excited to have fans in the stadium, even at a limited number,” Cox said.
Once games resume, only 5,000 fans will be allowed into Nationals Park.
Cox said all the “game-changing” news during the pandemic, including the delay in Opening Day has been difficult for the new restaurant.
“It’s not what we thought it was going to be whatsoever, and we’ve had to adapt both financially, and staff-wise, and business plan-wise constantly throughout this,” Cox said.
Dmitri Chekaldin, a co-owner at Jackie, located behind Nationals park, said the key to moving forward is patience and continuing to prepare for when baseball games return.
“We’re hiring away; we’re cleaning; we’re updating things. Onward and upward,” Chekaldin said.
Chekaldin said he used the postponement to give staff more time to practice the menus and drinks, and “tighten the loose ends.”
Next door at All Purpose Pizzeria, chef and owner Mike Friedman said they have spent the last weeks preparing staff for an increase in customers.
Friedman believes the games, good weather and vaccinations will bring more people out in the coming months; but he said it won’t be like “the before times.”
“I don’t think that it’ll get us back to any kind of normalcy,” Friedman said.
Friedman, who is only doing outdoor dining at this point, also said that he and other restaurant owners are waiting for more guidance from the city and the eventual easing of capacity limits.
For restaurants, COVID-19 restrictions in D.C. do allow for indoor dining but at 25% capacity.
Friedman believes it will be some time next year when things will get back to the level they were accustomed to, customer-wise and revenue-wise, before the outbreak began.
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