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Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration

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ABRA's office will be closed Monday, October 10 in observance of Indigenous Peoples' Day. We will reopen at 8:30 am on Tuesday, October 11.

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New and Expanded Outdoor Dining FAQ


Q. Who is eligible to participate?
A. On-premises retailer licensees (Convention Center food and alcohol retailers, hotels, multipurpose facilities, nightclubs, private clubs, restaurants, and taverns), common carriers, and manufacturers with an on-site sales and consumption permit.

Q. Are boats eligible?
A. Licensed common carriers are eligible but must adhere to the social distancing requirements including having all patron seating outdoors. Seating patrons inside cabins with windows and/or retractable doors or roofs open is not permitted. 

Q. Who needs to register?
A. Any eligible establishment that wants to sell alcoholic beverages on new or expanded outdoor seating for onsite consumption must register.

All licensees are responsible for configuring seating to comply with the established social distancing requirements. Table and seating adjustments may result in a reduced total patron capacity than previously approved by ABRA and/or DDOT.

Space Allowances

Q. Can licensees expand their licensed sidewalk cafes or summer gardens?
A. Yes—but all licensees must first register and receive approval. Licensees seeking to expand seating onto public space (sidewalk, parklet, or a designated food and retail zone) require DDOT approval. Licensees seeking to expand onto private property must also complete the same registration form but will be prompted to bypass non-applicable questions. DDOT approval is not required for outdoor seating on private property.

Q. Can a licensee apply to expand seating into public AND private space?
A. Yes. Licensees can request to expand into public and private space on the same application.

Q. Do licensees need to delineate currently licensed sidewalk cafes and summer gardens from new and expanded outdoor space?
A. Yes. The licensed and non-licensed spaces must be clearly marked. Licensees are encouraged to delineate space using strong weather resistant tape intended for outdoor use in the event markers must be adjusted. Paint and chalk should not be used.

Q. Do sidewalk cafes need to make any additional operational changes?
A. Existing enclosed sidewalk cafes must operate at all times during Phase One as unenclosed cafes pursuant to DCMR Title 24, Chapter 3, Section 316.10.

Q. What public and private spaces are eligible?
A. Licensees may expand outdoor dining seating onto ground or street level private property with written permission of the property owner. This includes surface parking lots and plazas. Available outdoor public space includes the sidewalk, parklets (converted street parking spaces), and closed streets and requires DDOT approval.

Q. Are rooftops eligible?
A. New and expanded outdoor dining seating is only allowed on ground and street level. Rooftops currently licensed as summer gardens may be used.

Q. Are establishments with retractable rooftops eligible?
A. Rooftops already licensed by ABRA as an outdoor summer garden are permitted to operate provided the rooftop remains unenclosed at all times with all of its windows open regardless of weather.

Q. Can licensees share outdoor dining space?
A. No.

Q. Can tents, canopies, and umbrellas be added?
A. Canopies and tents may be used provided they only have one (1) side flap. Umbrellas are permitted.

Q. Is a licensee’s expanded outdoor dining space subject to provisions included in an existing Settlement Agreement?
A. No.

Q. Is a licensee’s existing sidewalk café or summer garden on its license subject to provisions in an existing Settlement Agreement?
A. Yes. The parties to a Settlement Agreement that address currently licensed outdoor dining can petition the ABC Board to waive specific provisions for up to 180 days.

Prepared Food

Q. Is there a prepared food requirement?
A. Yes. Licensees must have a food menu in use containing at least three (3) prepared food items and require the purchase of one or more prepared food items per table. Prepared food items cannot be a pre-packaged snack such as chips, pretzels, cookies, candy bar, or nuts.   

Any food items sold and/or served, must be prepared on premise by the licensed entity, or off premise at another licensed entity, or an entity that is deemed approved to sell and/or serve food by DC Health.

Q. Can licensees partner with food operators?
A. Yes. Licensees may partner with DC-licensed food operators to be able to meet the three (3) prepared food item minimum. If the food operator is a food truck, the vehicle itself must be located on private property.

The licensee’s wait staff must take and deliver all food and alcoholic beverage orders to seated patrons. Patrons may not order or be served food or alcoholic beverages directly from the food truck operator.

Q. Are buffets permitted?
A. No. Self-service buffets or service stations are not allowed. All outdoor dining customers must be seated to place orders and be served food.

Q. Is BYOB permitted?
A. No. Patrons are prohibited from bringing and consuming their own alcoholic beverages.


Q. Will licensees be issued new licenses?
A. DDOT will issue a public space permit to applicants approved to operate in public space (new or expanded). ABRA will not issue any new alcohol licenses to include temporary new or expanded outdoor areas. All applicable regulatory agencies are sharing relevant data including site plans for inspections.

Q. What are the allowed hours of operation?
A. Outdoor on-premises alcohol sales, service, and consumption is permitted between 6:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., daily. Table and bar seating must be cleared of all alcoholic beverages by the stop-service time. Establishments may not extend a courtesy grace period of any length of time to patrons to be able to finish partially or entirely undrunk alcoholic beverages after 10:00 p.m. Establishments may remain open for outdoor on-premises dining—sans alcohol service— until 12:00 a.m. daily. Patrons are similarly not permitted to remain on-premises to consume unfinished meals after midnight. A licensee may continue to remain open to sell prepared food only for carry-out and delivery until the closing hour printed on their alcohol license.

Q. Can patrons be allowed to finish consuming their alcoholic beverage(s) after 10:00 p.m.?
A. No. Alcoholic beverages must be cleared from all table and bar seating by stop-service time. Patrons may remain on-premises till 12:00 a.m. daily to order or finish prepared food items. All patrons must vacate the premises by midnight.

Q. Can I remain open for food carry-out and delivery after 12:00 a.m.?
A. Licensees are permitted to remain open to sell food for carry-out and delivery until the closing hour printed on their alcohol license. To the extent possible, it is recommended that patrons wait outside a minimum of six (6) feet apart while waiting to receive their carry-out food order from the establishment.

Q. What are the permitted hours for alcohol carry-out and delivery?
A. Alcohol may be sold for carry-out and delivery with at least one (1) prepared food item between 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., daily. Advance registration with ABRA is required.

Customer Service

Q. Can I accept a license that has expired during the public health emergency?
A. The DC Department of Motor Vehicles has extended the expiration date for all documents expiring March 1 through the duration of the health emergency, including driver licenses and identification cards, until 45 days after the health emergency concludes.

Q. Who must wear face masks or coverings?
A.  Licensees must provide and require wait staff to wear face masks at all times. Patrons must wear masks at all times except for when eating or drinking including while waiting to be seated and traveling to use the restroom.

Q. Are reservations required?
A. Establishments are required to implement a reservation system to mitigate concentrated crowding. Reservations may be done online, by phone, or on-site. Contact information for at least one (1) person of each party should be collected to assist with contact tracing by DC Health as needed.