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District of Columbia

These resources – like the public health crisis itself – are constantly evolving and are only current as to the date of publication. This page was last updated on September 3, 2020.

For more up-to-date information on the relief programs available in the District of Columbia, we recommend that you visit D.C.'s COVID-19 Recovery Resources or Food Resources.

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Description of Program and Relief

Guidance on Reopening of Non-Essential Businesses

As of May 27, 2020 the Mayor has issued a new Executive Order that lifts the temporary closure of the on-site operation of all non-essential businesses. Click here to view the Mayor’s May 27 Order. As of May 29, the District entered Phase One of reopening, which means that waivers are no longer required for the operation of certain non-essential businesses for curbside and front door pickup. Since then the Mayor has issued another Executive Order on June 19, outlining the District’s move into Phase Two of reopening on June 22, which allowed for further operation of non-essential businesses.

Retail businesses in addition to being open for outdoor pickup and delivery, may now have customers shop indoors provided that the number of people in the establishment is limited to 50% of occupancy and social distancing processes are established and DOH protocols are followed. Retailers that would like to begin operations on open spaces should apply/register here, and must also apply for a permit to use sidewalk space.

Personal Services in addition to barbershops and hair salons, tanning, tattoo, waxing, threading, electrolysis, cryotherapy, facial and other skin services, and nail salons may provide services by appointment only and these businesses are encouraged to keep customer information related to these appointments, including which barber or stylist saw which customer, for use by contact tracers should that become necessary. No waiting inside the shop is permitted; in the shop there may be one customer per barber or stylist; products may be sold to customers immediately before or after appointments, but otherwise may only sell products on a delivery or curbside-pickup basis (and must also apply for sidewalk use permits); and open customer stations of all types must be at least six (6) feet from each other.

Gyms and Workout Studios can reopen with limited access, meaning five (5) people per 1,000 square feet, with physical distancing and operate in accord with guidance issued by DOH; including the implementation of strong safeguards regarding the frequent cleaning of equipment by staff between patron uses, not just patrons; they limit the usage of equipment so that patrons do not use adjacent equipment at the same time; group classes limit their attendance such that there is at least ten (10) feet between each person, stationary apparatus, or other piece of equipment in all directions; and pools may open in these facilities under additional requirements.

Restaurants now have the option, in addition to providing takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining, to open for indoor dining so long as all dining/drinking customers are seated, place orders, and are served as tables; no more than six (6) individuals may be seated indoors at a table or a joined table, and indoor and outdoor fixed tables that accommodate larger groups than are permitted may demarcate six (6) feet between groups and allow seating at those large tables; bar seating is prohibited if any bartender is working at that bar; all tables must be placed so that patrons are at least six (6) feet apart; all restaurants and licensed food establishments must implement sanitization and disinfection protocols; darts, pool, billiards, ping-pong, pinball, playgrounds, and other activities that are not carried out seated at tables are prohibited; and no queuing indoors shall be allowed, and outdoors, patrons must be separated by at least six (6) feet. Restaurants and other licensed food establishments may serve customers up to fifty percent (50%) of their maximum capacity, as listed in their Certificate of Occupancy, and restaurant staff and persons sitting outdoors are not counted in this capacity limit. Restaurants and other licensed food establishments are encouraged to use a reservation system, preferably online or by telephone, to avoid crowding and queuing nearby. Restaurants and other licensed food establishments are encouraged to keep customer logs to facilitate contact tracing if necessary. For further information click here for access to the “Reimagining Outdoor Space” summary.

Real Estate, Construction, and Development, may resume by holding open houses and hosting ground-breakings, grand openings, and other events, provided that: there is no crowding within the building or at the site, such that all persons or groups can maintain social distance; there shall not be more than fifty (50) persons at a property indoors at any one time; and agents or hosts must make best efforts to capture names, time of arrival, and contact information of attendees, to assist in possible contact tracing. Additionally, construction supervisors shall continue to implement site-specific plans to prevent and address COVID-19, including through the provision and mandated use of personal protective equipment, frequent hand washing, and providing that to the extent practicable, work should be conducted from a distance of at least six (6) feet between employees.

Businesses that operate pursuant to the May 27 and June 19 Orders must follow protocols required by prior guidance and also must inform all employees that they should not come to work if sick and of applicable leave provisions; and must create a plan regarding COVID-19, including providing all employees information about testing locations in the District and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For clarity, non-essential businesses that remain closed except for minimum business operations, curbside pickup or delivery, or home-based services include: hookah bars, cigar bars, and any other business operating pursuant to an exemption from the anti-smoking laws of the District of Columbia shall remain closed. Hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms at gyms, in freestanding facilities, or in apartments, condominiums, and cooperatives shall remain closed. Bars, nightclubs and mixed-use facilities shall remain closed, except to the extent that they are serving food consistent with the Mayor’s prior orders and are operating pursuant to endorsements from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). All high contact sports shall remain prohibited; and organized club team sport activities remain closed in District parks and fields. Spray parks shall remain closed.

Farmers Markets operating under a waiver granted pursuant to Paragraph IV of Mayor’s Order 2020-058 may amend their plans and requests for waivers to: allow the sale of non-food items and food prepared on site; allow customers to select their own produce; provide produce in non-pre-bagged quantities; and provide non-essential information and education. All existing waivers shall be extended to allow the market to operate through the rest of the season. Amended plans and requests for waiver that include only the new items referenced above shall be deemed approved when filed with, but may later be required to be modified or may be rejected based on review by the District.

Waivers are still required for other non-essential businesses as described in the Mayor’s March 24 Order, which can be found here, and as updated in the April 8 Order, which can be found here. Businesses that provide goods or services necessary to maintain operations at an Essential Business should apply for a waiver here. Those businesses that have requested a waiver should comply with the Mayor’s Order and suspend in-person operations until a waiver is approved and provided. Additionally, individuals or organizations may apply for a waiver to the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) to hold an arts, entertainment, or cultural event. That application must include a plan for social distancing, protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and a system to facilitate contact tracing. Absent a waiver, these venues, including theatres, cinemas, and other entertainment remain closed.

Government or Lead Agency

Office of the Mayor

Dates Available

The March 24 Order is effective starting 10:00 pm on March 25, 2020 until June 8, 2020. The May 27 Order is effective starting at 12:01 am on May 29, 2020. The June 19 Order is effective at 12:01 am on June 22, 2020.

Eligibility Requirements/Restrictions

Certain non-essential businesses no longer need to apply for waivers and may begin re-opening subject to conditions, while other businesses that have not been deemed essential may apply for a waiver.

Application Deadlines (If Applicable)


Contact for More Information


List of Additional Information

Click here and here for more information.

The Order extending the Public Emergency through July 24 can be found here.

Waivers can be applied for here.

Phase Two guidance for Non-essential Retail Establishments can be found here, for Personal Services can be found here, for Grocery Stores and Farmers Markets can be found here, for Gyms and Workout Studios can be found here, for Hotels and Accommodations can be found here, for Restaurants can be found here,

© 2021 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. In some jurisdictions, this publication may be considered attorney advertising. Past representations are no guarantee of future outcomes.

© 2021 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

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