WASHINGTON — Second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser toured a Parkview neighborhood bar on Monday before holding a roundtable with business owners and hospitality industry workers impacted by the pandemic.
The visit came the same week that the House is scheduled to vote on the Senate-passed version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
If passed and signed into law by President Joe Biden, the bill would provide billions of dollars to restaurants and bars around the country still reeling from months of restrictions and closures.
Inside Hook Hall in Parkview on Monday, tables and benches remained at least 6 feet apart.
Outside, a special Viking-themed setup included huts for groups to drink and dine in while also staying safely separated and distanced from other patrons.
For owner Anna Valero, the pandemic has been a constant exercise in adjusting to restrictions and rules all while trying to stay afloat.
"Regulations and masks and guest safety, it’s a whole new ballgame," she said. "It’s been more about how we work together to make sure that we’re all still standing on the other side of this."
During the economic downturn, Valero helped organize the Hook Hall Helps project to provide meals to hospitality workers who lost their jobs.
During the tour on Monday, she spoke about how the business community has come together during the tough times to help one another.
Valero was joined by longtime Hilton Hotels events planner Theo Abbot, small business owner and mother Brooke Stonebanks, and Wellfound Foods founder Sarah Frimpong.
The four were able to share with Bowser and Emhoff their stories of hardship during the pandemic while also discussing how tight-knit the hospitality industry is.
With possible restaurant relief funding coming, Valero said the aid could directly help her bar as restrictions possibly get rolled back in the next few weeks and months.
"It gives us a little bit of hope, especially as we think about truly being able to reopen," she said.
Restaurants and bars will be far from the only ones benefiting from the plan being voted on in Congress.
Aside from $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans whose income is less than $75,000 a year, the bill will also provide billions of dollars in relief for states and localities.
Moving forward, Valero hopes the assistance would come soon.
"The upfront costs of going from being dark for months to being reopened are very sizeable," she said. "(The aid) gives us some hope of a longer-term plan about how we truly get those other establishments reopened.”