WASHINGTON — The 2020 holiday season looks different amidst pandemic, but for some it meant losing their job right before the holidays.
A ban on indoor dining went into effect for D.C., Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties in the weeks before Christmas. That led some restaurants to make hard decisions on how it would navigate the change.
At Ambar Capitol Hill, Manager Isidora Vejnovic said 90% of the restaurant's front of house staff had to be cut during the District’s temporary ban on indoor dining. A decision she said was hard to make.
“All of the servers and support staff are basically cut completely for three weeks-- 90% of them. We are going to see over the next week how the to-go orders work out and maybe try and bring them in, but we’re trying to do our best,” Vejnovic said.
Vejnovic said they had planned for a Christmas indoor dining brunch, but due to restrictions the only orders coming in are for to-go.
“We were supposed to have a brunch and we planned it a long time ago. It's our big thing, but since they announced that we're going to have only outdoor seatings we kind of calculated the weather and the staff and since we don't have a huge patio in front of us we decided, unfortunately, to close the restaurant completely for dining in, only just to do the takeouts,” Vejnovic said. “So basically, the restaurant looks empty and kind of sad.”
She said they did well for takeout orders on Christmas Eve, but nothing compared to what could have been.
For restaurants that do have outdoor dining space, like Lauriol Plaza in Adams Morgan, long time server Cristina Cejas said it’s going to look different than the last 20 years she’s worked the Christmas dinner shift.
“It’s going to be very different because we are only open outside. It's a little chilly, but they’re still going to come. We also have the back, the tent is ready and we have heaters. So we are ready for people that want to come,” Cejas said.
A couple of blocks away Café U was also open, providing a little bit of hope for some during a holiday unlike any other. After a lady had an encounter with a man outside and offered to make his day a little brighter.
“She bought him a cup of coffee and he had said that he hadn't received a Christmas present in many years. And that was the first time someone had bought him something in years,” Alyssa Eisenstin with Café U said.
In Prince George's County, indoor dining is suspended through Jan. 16, allowing outdoor dining to continue at 50% capacity. Montgomery County has banned all indoor dining until further notice, allowing outdoor dining to continue during restricted hours (6 a.m. -10 p.m.).