Georgetown Small Businesses Hit Hard; Virus Advice

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Martin's Tavern owner Billy Martin with Lauren Martin, a member of the next generation. Photo by Robert Devaney.

“It’s a difficult time for all,” said Billy Martin, owner of Martin’s Tavern — ground zero for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Georgetown and in operation since 1933. “It’s especially hard for Georgetown.”

“We’ve been around for 87 years and been through hardships before,” he said of the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. “This may be the hardest. There are a lot of challenges — and unknowns.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser directed restaurants to shut the bar areas and make a six-foot distance between patrons. For Martin, that directive shuts down several sittings in his establishment, which can sit around 100. [UPDATE: D.C. now requires all restaurants to be carry-outs. Martin’s Tavern will be cash and carry on St. Patrick’s Day. Just call them on the phone; they’re not using apps.]

“It would have been nice if they’d simply shut down the restaurants,” Martin continued. “Make it up a federal directive, so it’s not piecemeal. Even if we convert to delivery [or grab and go], we’re not going to generate enough revenue. We know and hope our neighbors will support us, but it’s not enough.”

“As an owner what do I do to reassure my staff?” he asked, adding that a relief package is not yet known because he is not completely sure what the government is doing. “Already, we have five bartenders who cannot work.”

“Georgetown restaurants like Filomena’s, Kitchen 1310 and Brasserie Liberte are closed,” said Lauren Martin, one of the next generation of Martins involved in the restaurant. The loss of traffic from the National Cherry Blossom Festival and other spring events, along with lost graduation parties, will hit restaurants and small businesses hard, she added.

As of 9 p.m., March 16, restaurants, bar and spa at the Four Seasons Hotel will be temporarily closed, hotel officials told the Georgetowner. “We decided in light of other closings that would be best,” spa and health club director Nabil Gomes said. “The hotel remains open to guests who may also order meals room service, for the time being.”

For Krista Johnson, co-owner of the Ella Rue clothing shop on P Street, the decision to close was made on Sunday. “We felt the only way to deal with the coronavirus and keeping people healthy was to close down the shop,” she said. “This is the first time since 9/11 that no matter who you are, how much money you have or not, we are all in the same boat. It’s not only about health and wellness but about caring for others, especially those less fortunate than we are, as well as the elderly.”

Meanwhile, the Georgetown Business Improvement District has sent a survey to its members about the economic effects of the coronavirius pandemic. If you have not received it, contact BID at info@georgetowndc.com. The BID says it plans to use the results for advocacy, advising the public how to support local businesses “and the future marketing of Georgetown.” The BID will hold a conference call with its members March 19.

In addition, Carrie Hull created a GoFundMe page for Georgetown’s small businesses.

“I’m extremely saddened to learn about hard times our beloved small Georgetown, D.C., businesses are facing in the midst of the growing concerns over COVID-19,” Hull wrote. “Business owners and their staff must be open to make money! It seems very likely these businesses will be facing mandatory closure by the mayor. I am currently looking for community partners to affiliate with and spread this message! Please reach out to me via FB message if you would like to help!”

Hull’s website is GoFundMe.com/f/support-georgetown-businesses-during-covd19.

Of course, during this pandemic, the most important websites to check are:

= The D.C. government’s coronavirus site: Coronavirus.dc.gov

= The U.S. government’s coronavirus site: Coronavirus.gov

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