Arlington, VA

The restaurant business is hurting nationwide.

The pandemic has kept diners at home and contributed to the closure of thousands of restaurants. It has also prompted temporary restrictions on how restaurants operate, which in Virginia means no bar seating, reduced capacities, and increased cleaning expenses, among other things.

Here in Arlington, at least 17 restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic; the most recent closures include Spirits of ’76 and Riverside Hot Pot in Clarendon, and Summers in Courthouse. Owners of restaurants that have closed, who have talked to ARLnow, have said that business — particularly indoor business — was greatly reduced, while the already-high rent stayed the same.

(There have been restaurant openings amid the carnage, however, including Colony Grill in Clarendon, Lee’s Sandwiches in Ballston, and Ruthie’s All-Day in Arlington Heights.)

What’s keeping diners away is pretty simple: it’s risky to dine out during a pandemic. Doing anything in an indoor, confined space without a mask, including eating, elevates one’s risk of contracting COVID-19.

Outdoor dining is safer — a new contact tracing report from the City of Alexandria saw only about 2% of new COVID patients report recently dining outside — but, of course, the weather is now getting colder, making it a less attractive option, even with the mass deployment of heaters.

In the meantime, coronavirus cases nationwide are increasing, though for now new cases locally are holding relatively steady.

Given all that, how do currently feel about dining out? Are you willing to dine inside a restaurant at this point?

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