Councilmember McDuffie, Community leaders and Business Leaders Call on Mayor Bowser to Release Reopening Roadmap

Calls for a reopening plan and hotel relief grants come as regional partners and cities across the country unveil plans for how workers, businesses, and faith institutions will move forward

For Release: Monday May 10, 2021

Contact: Malcom Fox, 202-227-1701, mfox@dccouncil.us

Washington, DC – Today, Ward 5 Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development Kenyan McDuffie joined community stakeholders representing workers, local businesses, and institutions of faith in the District to call on Mayor Bower to release a formal reopening roadmap for Washington, D.C.

“Low-wage workers, particularly those in the hospitality and service industries, have seen their livelihoods evaporate,said Councilmember McDuffie.Businesses cannot begin to rehire and reopen without a proper roadmap like what neighboring jurisdictions have released. Our reopening plan must prioritize safety, but the continued ad-hoc approach that keeps stakeholders in the dark prevents our businesses and faith leaders from planning for the future and getting on the path to recovery.”

As May begins, D.C. is entering (for the second time during the pandemic) what is, historically, the highest revenue generating period in Washington. In the months between April and September, DC businesses rely on the warm weather and spike in tourism to generate enough income to sustain operations for the rest of the year, and workers rely on consistent and reliable employment. Without this activity, businesses will continue to face staggering losses in revenue and employment. This call for a reopening roadmap comes as our regional partners have eased capacity restrictions and other large localities like New York City announced 75% indoor capacity while D.C. remains stuck at 25% with no publicized plans to update guidelines.

“The 25% capacity for indoor dining is not sustainable for our small businesses. Many have still opted to remain closed as it is an impossible financial model to staff, procure product and provide full guest experience when you can only operate at a quarter of what is possible,” said Kathy Hollinger, President and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. “Financially it doesn’t work, and a restaurant would be operating at a loss. This industry has experienced devastating loss over the last 15 months and recovering will be very long and a slow rebuild. We have to take steps forward to lift restrictions so that businesses can begin rebuilding revenue. Relief dollars only go so far, we need to reopen and begin our initial recovery.”

Hotels and the workers they employ have been among the most impacted stakeholders during this Covid-19 induced recession. Since the start of the pandemic, hotels have laid off 50% to 70% of their employees, utilized capital reserves, delayed paying vendors, and took out loans to pay their DC Real Property taxes. Some hotels are still struggling to stay open, and over the past year, 10 hotels have permanently closed, removing 2,188 rooms, and many jobs that will not come back for years. We cannot bring our economy back without additional and immediate financial relief for hotels the workers they employ.

Thomas Penny, President of Donohoe Hospitality Services, said, “Never before in the city has the hotel industry found itself in such a dire state with most of our team members disconnected from work, DC trailing the other top 25 U.S. Hotel Markets in its recovery and every hotel in the city experiencing significant financial stress as we look to maintain as many staff members as possible, 15 months into this pandemic. Hotels need immediate relief to keep the doors open over the next 90 days. We respectfully request the city to urgently provide hotel relief grants to help us rehire our people, meet our payroll, maintain benefits and survive this spring and summer.”

Councilmember McDuffie has been meeting with faith leaders across the District amidst concerns that the Mayor has yet to issue plans for how and when congregations will once again be able to gather safely. The executive recently rejected Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s waiver request to have a vaccinated section for parishioners to ensure safe gatherings above the normal capacity limits.

“The essential needs of the community during COVID were provided by the faith community who has a plan to keep their congregations connected,” said Pastor Charles McNeil, President of the Missionary Baptist Ministers Conference. “Houses of worship devised plans to serve with the restrictions that were outlined and put in place by our political leaders. As we begin to see our way clear of this pandemic, we must now have a clear and concise plan from our elected leaders for reopening houses of worship safely and without endangering others so that churches can continue to worship through faith and serve communities that are in need.

Councilmember McDuffie will continue to work with and advocate on behalf of all stakeholders who demand and deserve a formal plan as to how DC will reopen, get residents back to work, and enable congregations to safely gather in prayer.