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Should Your Business Go into Hibernation for the COVID-19 Winter?


Some businesses have hibernation (or estivation, as the case may be) built into their business model.  The ice cream parlors and fudge shops in seaside towns virtually anywhere north of Ocean City are only open in the summer.  Likewise, ski slopes are only open in the winter, as are glass-roofed hotels in Arctic regions where the main reason for visiting a place with such an inhospitable climate is to see the Northern Lights.  It looks like, this year, dine-in restaurants are going to have to be a seasonal business because, even by the most optimistic estimates about COVID-19 vaccine availability, indoor dining will not be safe until the spring at the very earliest.  For some businesses, closing temporarily and then reopening in the spring might be the best option.  If you choose this option, a Washington DC small business lawyer can help to tie up loose ends to ensure a cozy hibernation.

To Winterize or to Hibernate?

This fall, the pivot to outdoor dining has helped many restaurants in the Washington DC area stay in business.  The DC government even offered grants for restaurants to establish or refurbish outdoor seating areas so that diners could stay warm while keeping a safe distance from other parties in the outdoor dining room.  The trouble with winterizing, as converting an indoor dining restaurant to a patio dining restaurant came to be known, is that what worked for the fall does not necessarily work for the winter.  In fact, there are two reasons that your current winterizing scheme probably will not get you through the winter.  The first is that the current guidelines for restaurants allow them to operate at 50 percent capacity.  Because of the current spike in new COVID-19 cases in the Washington DC area and most other parts of the United States, the District has issued new guidance that, starting on December 14, restaurants will only be allowed to have indoor dining at 25 percent capacity.  Besides that, local regulations state that patio dining must close down when the temperature is below 33 degrees.  In other words, when it is cold enough to snow, it is too cold to seat diners on your winterized patio; it’s time to hibernate, instead.

Food and beverage establishments in the DC area are preparing for winter in different ways.  Some bars are ramping up operations in their kitchen and focusing on food delivery; the place where you used to drink after work with your buddies pre-COVID could be your go-to place to get vegan chicken wings delivered, for example.  Others are simply shutting down operations until spring, negotiating with their landlords for reduced or deferred payments, or even continuing to rent only a portion of the space while vacating the other part of it to make room for a new tenant.

Contact Us Today for Help

The decision to close your business, even temporarily, is never easy, but a Washington DC small business lawyer can make the transition easier.  Contact Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. for a consultation on your case.



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