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DC businesses and neighbors cautiously embrace full reopening

Most businesses, including restaurants, churches, and gyms can now remove all restrictions. Bars and nightclubs can be at 50% capacity.

WASHINGTON — It’s the first weekend with almost all of D.C.’s restrictions lifted, and businesses and neighbors are cautiously embracing the rollback.

As of Friday, May 21, almost all businesses, including restaurants, gyms, retail stores and churches, have the green light from the city to remove all COVID-related restrictions.

According to Mayor Muriel Bowser's order, bars and nightclubs can expand to 50% capacity. Come June 11, they and large sports and entertainment arenas are allowed to fully reopen.

Some neighbors who had been hibernating months finally felt comfortable to step outside in the again bustling Adams Morgan neighborhood.

“This is actually our first time out in about a year and five months of the pandemic. We've been in the house on lockdown," Aarum Hurse said. "So it's a little strange to be outside.”

The bar expansion was especially exciting to places like Retrobottega, whose bar seats were always the coveted spot.

“Yesterday night — that is the latest edition," owner Matteo Catalani said. "Oh, man, it's definitely like first bar shift after a year, a year and a few months. It's felt differently in a good way … You could tell there were people like very excited just to see the bar.”

Others were eager to finally walk around without masks — especially with the hot temperatures.

“This is the first time I actually have taken my mask off in public, so it's weird," Elizabeth Torres said. "I feel awkward, but I'm trying to tell myself It's okay. Because I'm fully vaccinated.”

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

Still, many businesses are still opting to keep some restrictions in place, like masks inside and social distancing. 

Catalani said Retrobottega will still require masks inside for the time being.

“We're not planning on lifting that anytime soon," he said. "Just, you know, to make feel everyone confident and comfortable.”

With traffic returning, signs saying, "The sooner we all have shots, the sooner we can all have shots together," line the streets, encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.

“Get vaccinated," Hurse said. "We were both fully vaccinated, so we feel a little safe popping out here and there.”

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