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Customers flock to Wharf fish markets as they reopen with new rules

D.C. approved the Municipal Fish Market vendors to reopen Saturday with new rules, after images of an overcrowded market forced an emergency closure last week.

WASHINGTON — With new rules in place, fish market vendors at The Wharf once again opened their stands Saturday, ready to sell to buyers lining up around the corner.

"We’re geared up, so we decided to come out, get what we need and come home," customer Rickie Childs said. 

He and his wife made their biweekly trip to the market, with face masks this time.

Vendors were forced to implement new safety regulations, after images of an overcrowded market with no social distancing went viral last weekend. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser enacted an emergency closure in response.

RELATED: DC mayor closes Wharf fish markets after patrons fail to follow social distancing guidelines

Bowser said vendors would only be allowed to reopen once they submitted a new safety plan to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for approval.

On Thursday, she implemented a new rule that said farmers' markets were no longer considered essential businesses, and they would have to obtain a waiver to operate.

RELATED: DC farmers markets no longer essential business, need waiver to operate

RELATED: DC Fish Market unveils new social distance plan: no eating, no kids, no walk-ups
The Wharf DC shared in a note posted online that the vendors had received the appropriate waivers to reopen:

"As of 4/10, the District of Columbia has approved the vendors at the Municipal Fish Market to reopen with additional physical distancing protocols, staffing, and protective equipment," the Wharf's website said. 

The vendors spent some of the week putting up tape to mark social distancing, barricades to direct lines and multiple signs with new rules, like:

"Must wear masks to enter," and "No eating, no sitting, no congregating."

Regular shoppers like Michael Akindele said it was a different experience, but necessary for safety.

"Definitely see that they’ve taken measures to make it as safe as possible," Akindele said. "Implementing social distancing and insisting on entry points and exit points." 

RELATED: Several Wharf fish and farmers' markets reopen with approved waivers, shoppers must wear masks

Credit: Mark Bost
Now, shoppers at the Wharf fish market are required to wear masks to enter, per this sign.

RELATED: 'Why wouldn't you help keep us in business?' | Farmer says DC's new rules could put small markets, farmers out of work

The National Guard and D.C. police were out manning the lines Saturday, making sure customers were following the new rules.

Some customers said seeing them made them feel safer.

"I think they’re doing an outstanding job, so kudos to them for what they’re doing," Childs said. "It seems like people are following instructions. Even though it’s a serious time, it’s great to come out and feel like we can be safe." 

Per a Facebook post from Captain White's Seafood, their stall was supposed to open at 8 a.m. Saturday. However, DCRA officials showed up to do one last check before giving the final approval, delaying the opening until after 10 a.m.

Still, buyers said nothing could have stopped them from going to the fish market that's become a tradition. And, those leaving had one thing on their minds.

"Large crab legs, jumbo scallops and shrimp," Childs said. 

RELATED: 'I feel like we let them down' | DC Fish Market vendor says shutdown hurts employees, fishermen and customers

Credit: Jess Arnold
The National Guard and DC Police monitored the lines at the Wharf Saturday, making sure customers complied with the new rules.

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