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DC restaurants hope for smooth, proof-of-vax Restaurant Week

Almost two years into the pandemic, and Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Weeks are still not normal, but this year’s Winter Restaurant Week aims to feel more normal.

Almost two years into the pandemic, and Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Weeks are still not normal, but this year’s Winter Restaurant Week, which begins Jan. 17, aims to feel more normal, with a renewed emphasis on on-site dining.

Even so, the 200 or so Washington-area restaurants taking part in Winter Restaurant Week with specially priced, multicourse brunch, lunch and dinner menus are still leaning on what options became popular pivots during the pandemic.



“We have Restaurant Week to-go meals. We have delivery of course, which was not always custom during Restaurant Week because it is designed to get people into restaurants. But we’re also promoting the many restaurants giving diners an outside dining option if they choose to do so,” said Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which sponsors the D.C. region’s twice-a-year Restaurant Weeks.

Winter Restaurant Week comes on the heels of yet another curve ball thrown at D.C. area restaurants, with the COVID-19 omicron variant and infections coming just as the holidays were arriving.

“While everybody was somewhat aware we’d have to deal with variants, I don’t think people fully recognized the gravity at which it would disrupt their operations during the holiday season,” Hollinger said.

“We had many restaurants that had to completely redirect their thinking or close during a time of year that is very festive, and a year that we thought would be unlike last year where there could be some making up of celebrating, but it just didn’t happen.”

Omicron will be a wildcard for Winter Restaurant Week turnout. So might be the District’s new vaccination requirement. Starting Jan. 15, just two days before Restaurant Week kicks off, proof of the first dose of vaccination will be required for all diners 12 and over at restaurants and bars for inside dining.

Winter Restaurant Week starts Jan. 17, and many of the D.C.-area restaurants participating in it are hoping for more of a return to normal. (Getty Images/Hemera/Yuri Checcucci)

“We have scores of restaurants who are already doing that. So it may not be such a big culture shift for many in D.C. I am encouraging a lot of kindness as they choose to support these restaurants. They are supporting these restaurants in ways that are keeping the entire community safe,” Hollinger said.

As has played out in New York City and elsewhere where proof of vaccination is required, D.C. restaurant staff may face the additional stress of enforcing the city’s policy. D.C. requires all restaurants to prominently display, before entry, a notice of the requirement.

“(Enforcing this) is an additional stressor placed on the owner and employee. We are encouraging (restaurants) to find a way that is kind and easy with a lot of signage that provides some of what you would hope an employee or staff doesn’t have to go into a lot of detail but is very transparent,” Hollinger said.

Restaurants taking part in Winter Restaurant Week specials all have uniform menu pricing. Multicourse brunch and lunch menus are $25 per person, and multicourse dinner menus for $40 or $55 for on-premises dining. To-go meals for two are $70 or $100, and $140 or $200 for four people.

Participating restaurants can be found online.

DC restaurants hope for smooth, proof-of-vax Restaurant Week