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DC restaurants, bar owners look forward to business without COVID restrictions

Restaurants and bars return to full capacity starting Friday, May 21.

WASHINGTON — Just weeks away from the District’s full reopening, The Game Sports Pub and Tiki on 18th St., in Northwest D.C. violated COVID-19 capacity limits. 

Investigators with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulations Administration (ABRA) issued a written warning. Bar managers said it was still a blow since they worked so hard to follow the changing COVID-19 restrictions.  

Jo-Jo Valenzuela is the club’s managing partner and admitted with little staff available the crowd crept up just a couple of people past the 25% capacity. 

“Thankfully, it's just a warning because we did try our best we really did,” Valenzuela said. "You don’t cut corners, but things happen, and you learn from them."

Since the beginning of the pandemic, ABRA issued nearly 250 citations for COVID-19 violations: from loud music to no masks, to after-hour service. Some repeat offenders had their liquor license suspended like Kiss Lounge in Shaw and the now-closed District Soul in Barracks Row. 

“Restaurant jobs are one of the most stressful jobs out there,” Valenzuela said. "Now you’ve got to adhere to all these rules.”

RELATED: DC bar says liquor license was revoked 'without proper due process'

WUSA9 has learned ABRA finalized the new rules for restaurant and bar owners just Wednesday. So, that means it’s a race to retrain investigators and business owners as D.C. transitions to full capacity restaurants and bars Friday at 5 a.m. 

Valenzuela said while they’re happy to return to more normal business operations, they need to hire additional staff to pull it all off.   

RELATED: Business back to normal: Some restaurants removing delivery service for good

An ABRA spokesperson told WUSA9 that it’s important for bars and restaurant owners to understand while restrictions are lifted, reservations plus a 30-day contact list remain in effect.

ABRA will answer more questions in an informational session Friday at 10 a.m.  

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