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'Everything you've done in the past: Get rid of it' | Residents, retailers prepare for new DC in Phase 1 reopening

Mayor Muriel Bowser says residents must maintain social distancing during phase 1 reopening.

WASHINGTON — On a typical spring day, Capitol Hill restaurants would be packed. Owners who have been staring at empty tables hope that changes Friday with phase 1 of D.C.'s reopening. 

"We just got to get open and get things going we have bills to pay we have people to pay and by sitting stagnant like this we're doing anyone any good we're not doing us any good or the city any good," said Tony Harris who owns Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill.  He said for restaurants that have been operating at less than half capacity for the past 2 months, getting up to speed for opening is a challenge.  "The purveyors don't have full supplies," he explained, "because they cut back because they can't sell food so everyone is rushing to get food now." 

At Bullfeathers, Harris said crews are working to space their outdoor seating 6 feet apart. waitstaff will wear masks and gloves. patrons will get plastic-ware and paper menus

But a successful reopening means we must all work together.

"Rethinking, reprogramming," Gwendolyn Collins said. "Everything you've done in the past: Get rid of that."

It's a new day in D.C. Phase One of the city's comeback looks different from hand-washing stations, to safety signs on sidewalks and storefronts. Retailers are anxious to get back to business.

"It's a slow return to normal, and it's definitely not normal yet," said Kathleen Donahue, of Labyrinth Games on Capitol Hill.

The game shop reopened a week ago for contact-less curbside pick-up under the mayor's educational retail waiver. Donahue hopes Friday will be the beginning of a better chapter for her small business and others like it.

"It's incredibly important that we remain safe, because if I get sick, or my staff gets sick, or my family gets sick, we've closed down again," she said.

WASHINGTON - The District will be closed until June 8, but there is a sign of a slow, reopening, in a pilot program that could help D.C. shops plan better for phasing in their businesses. Mayor Bowser said there are about 40 local businesses that can apply for the educational and academic retail waiver starting Friday.

According to city leaders, restaurants that do not already have outdoor seating will be able to use their sidewalks and the city will fast track that process.  "We want restaurants to be able to use the outdoor space that's close by them, even if they weren't doing it pre-pandemic," said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio.  The Deputy Mayor said plans are in the works to block off sidewalks and streets so we can all spread out and stay safe.  "Mayor Bowser is keen on taking public space, sidewalks and also roadways, for the three R's: recreation, retail, and restaurants," he said.

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WUSA9 set up a microphone on Capitol Hill and posted a question that asked what folks wanted to see in the reopening.

"Everybody starts loving each other, get closer to God, and we can reopen and move on with our lives again," one man.

"I think we should wait actually," another man said. "I'm glad of the social distancing, actually, but it's a good thing to wait. The cities that have opened and the increase in deaths -- hello!"

Mayor Muriel Bowser said she knows reopening the city comes with risk and that's why district leaders said they've increased testing and access to PPE. But ultimately moving the city forward safely starts with us showing each other a little love.

"Wake up with positive thinking," Collins said. "What can we contribute to making this a better day for the next day hopefully?"

The mayor said in order to get to Phase 2 of reopening in the District, the Health Department must see another 14-day decline of cases and signs that the spread of the virus is slowing.

RELATED: Coronavirus live updates: DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia to loosen restrictions Friday

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