The Fahrenheit Steakhouse in Fredericksburg, as customers and restaurant workers navigate dining out six months into the pandemic.

The Fahrenheit Steakhouse in Fredericksburg, as customers and restaurant workers navigate dining out six months into the pandemic.

Its been six months of cooking at home, outdoor dining and picking up takeout. But for some locals, eating out at restaurants is still cause for anxiety.

We’re digging into the root of these fears, but also what happens when customers are too lax about safety protocols and how deescalation trainings are easing tensions between restaurant workers and customers. What’s the future of dining out?

Produced by Inés Rénique



  • 12:00:03

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. How our region's restaurants and bars are or are not staying afloat during the pandemic? We'll be talking with the podcast's hosts about how we're grappling with socializing and sharing a meal all the while staying safe. Joining me now is Patrick Fort, Co-host of Dish City. Patrick, welcome.

  • 12:00:30

    PATRICK FORTHey, Kojo.

  • 12:00:31

    NNAMDIAlso Ruth Tam is the other Co-host of Dish City. Ruth, welcome.

  • 12:00:38

    RUTH TAMHey, Kojo. Thanks for having us.

  • 12:00:39

    NNAMDIYes. One of the problems with life these days is that I'm not seeing you and Patrick running around the studio all the time. It's making me extremely paranoid, but that's okay. Ruth, remind us again about Dish City. What was the idea when you launched last year?

  • 12:00:57

    TAMYeah. So if you're not familiar with us, Dish City is WAMU's local food podcast. We explore city change through D.C.'s iconic foods. The main idea is we use food to talk about the big issues that we face in this region including this area's history, you know, population changes we've seen, migration, gentrification, big stuff like that.

  • 12:01:20

    NNAMDIPatrick, we're living in a very different moment. What was your thought process behind season two and how did you pivot?

  • 12:01:28

    FORTWell, you know, in our first season we focused on specific foods. So each episode was about kind of a singular cuisine or dish. But when the pandemic came to our region, we realized that, you know, we could probably be doing something more -- something better with our time really. And like Ruth said we were focused on learning and reporting about the ways that our region is changing. And there happens to be a lot of change happening right now. So we were kind of primed already to kind of put a hold on what we were working on and look at the ways our food scene was changing.

  • 12:02:08

    NNAMDIYeah. When you say put a hold on what you were working on, just how much of what you originally planned for season two were you able to even keep?

  • 12:02:17

    FORTI mean, we kept it all. But the bigger question is when it will see the light of day.

  • 12:02:24

    NNAMDISo you still have it, but you don't know when it's going to be on air in the podcast. 800-433-8850 how do you feel about going out to restaurants in the area? We'd like to hear from you 800-433-8850. Ruth, your first episode this season was about the closing of a D.C. landmark Eighteenth Street Lounge. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why it was such an institution?

  • 12:02:49

    TAMYeah. This last most recent episode on Eighteenth Street Lounge may be one of my new favorites. If you've never been, ESL is a nightclub. It was south of Dupont Circle for the past 25 years. It became really well known for live dj sets and also like music performances in terms of, you know, house, jazz, reggae. In terms of the music scene it think it was really well known for being a consistent place for both performers and people who were going there as music fans to see live shows. And it just like really carved out a space in the local music scene and offered something really consistent.

  • 12:03:27

    NNAMDIWell, I really liked that episode because I discovered that you had to go up 19 steps. Who knew that you had to go up 19 steps to get there? Here's a clip from Dish City's most recent episode about the Eighteenth Street Lounge. Owner Farid Nouri is talking about D.C.'s food and music scene back when he first opened his establishment 25 years ago.

  • 12:03:48

    FARID NOURIIt wasn't much creativity in the hospitality world restaurant-wise. You know, there was your average, you know, steakhouse and then you have the cheap eats, ethnic foods. And then bar-wise you had colors bars or like super expensive nightclubs, right?

  • 12:04:07

    NNAMDIJust a little taste of the most recent episode of Dish City. Ruth, the Eighteenth Street Lounge filled a hole in the nightlife scene here in the 90s. What kind of a blow is it to lose it now?

  • 12:04:17

    TAMI think it's a really big blow. I mean, there's no way to say goodbye when things shutdown suddenly and when we can't go out and spend, you know, one last night at places that we know and love. It's also happening in the middle of all this other major loss whether that's like, you know, on a human level. Like we're losing people to this pandemic and we're also losing so many other businesses. So this is just one of the many things that complicates the mourning process for us. And I was talking to a friend about this. But, you know, we're not really just mourning the loss of these individual businesses.

  • 12:04:54

    TAMBut we're kind of I think saying good-bye to the person that we were when we used to go to them. And so these chapters in our lives are closing and it's not because of anything that we had decided for ourselves. Not any of these usual transition points like, oh, we're moving out of town, or, you know, We're getting older so we're not going out as much anymore. These chapters of our lives are really closing because of the pandemic. And then we also have like no say in that process.

  • 12:05:18

    NNAMDIRuth, Eric Hilton was one of the original owners of Eighteenth Street Lounge before a change in ownership. He and his brother Ian who have been major players in D.C.'s nightlife scene with bars all around the U Street corridor just announced that they're closing seven other bars including El Rey, The Brixton and the American Ice Company among others. What does this mean for nightlife here in general in the U Street area in particular?

  • 12:05:45

    TAMI think a lot of these bars signified when they first opened this era of D.C. nightlife where U Street was the cool place to be. And, you know, Marvin opened up in 2007. This was shortly after Eric Hilton left as an owner at Eighteenth Street Lounge. And just personally speaking it was the first bar that I went to in D.C. And it was a lot like ESL in a way with the live music and all these different rooms to explore. And Marvin closing and all these other bars closing means that this chapter of nightlife has closed. And that U Street after the pandemic may not look the same at all. And then, of course, in the short term there's all these jobs that are being lost now, which is what Laura Hayes, the Washington City Paper reporter who first broke these news has really done a great job of drawing attention to.

  • 12:06:31

    NNAMDIAnd then Twins, my favorite jazz club on U Street also closed. Is there any indication, Ruth, that the bars may reopen down the line?

  • 12:06:40

    TAMI think a lot of people who have, you know, deep ties in local business and who have made a name for themselves in creating this kind of nightlife, they want to be a part of D.C.'s culture. And just because the pandemic has put a stop on that now doesn't mean that all their hopes and dreams have just died with it. I think people do want to come back. I know that Farid Nouri, the owner of Eighteenth Street Lounge is planning on reopening, you know, another form of Eighteenth Street Lounge. I don't know if it will be like ESL 2.0 or something totally different. But he is making plans to like be involved in D.C.'s nightlife again. And I wouldn't be surprised if, you know, he wasn't alone there.

  • 12:07:22

    NNAMDIPatrick, tell us a little bit more about upcoming shows. What's in store for listeners?

  • 12:07:29

    FORTWell, I don't want to spoil everything. But we're kind of working on an episode on the Mid-Autumn Festival and mooncakes. And we're also working on an episode kind of about a future hypothetical restaurant is what I'll say about that. And we've got a few other ideas bouncing around in our brains, but keep your eyes on your podcast feed.

  • 12:07:52

    NNAMDIA future hypothetical restaurant. Sounds intriguing. Here's Liz in Fairfax, Virginia. Liz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:08:00

    LIZHi. Thanks for having me on. We went out to pick up curbside and we're very disappointed in what happened. And then later on when things first opened up we wanted to be supportive and we went out. And it was anything but a pleasant dining experience. They ask us, "Do you want paper or linen?" "Do you want plastic or regular?" There's no ketchup or Tabasco sauce or salt and pepper on the table. We had to ask for that, and that was brought in packets.

  • 12:08:38

    LIZSo if they bring you too many packets they get thrown away. If they don't bring you enough packets, you've got to ask for more. When we did curbside pickup, our orders were always messed up. And we really enjoy some ethnic food. And we found that a lot of the ethnic restaurants have not opened up yet. They're still waiting for I guess the 100 percent.

  • 12:09:06

    NNAMDILet me ask you, Liz, you found curbside pickup and dining disappointing at a variety of places or just one place?

  • 12:09:17

    LIZWe tried three different places, which were our three favorite places. And, Kojo, that's probably why it was so disappointing, because they were our favorites and we wanted to support the staff there, the wait staff, the cooks, the chefs. And the places that we've gone back to like the servers that we knew for several years, they're gone. The cooks and chefs that we knew, they're gone. So I think there's been ...

  • 12:09:46

    NNAMDISo neither curbside or restaurant dining worked for you. Ruth, we only have about a minute left in this segment, but have you been hearing a lot of that?

  • 12:09:56

    TAMYeah. There is some people who have found that the dining experience during the pandemic is different than the dining experience before the pandemic. And that's something that I think everyone should be aware of when they decide to patronize a restaurant. You know, supply chains are different. Business models are different. People who used to work at these restaurants don't necessarily feel comfortable going back. So people have had to kind of make things up on the fly and we should all -- I think be very understanding and approach this situation with compassion.

  • 12:10:26

    NNAMDIWell, we'll be talking a little bit more about that after a short break. But you're welcome to join the conversation. Are you eating outdoors? Are you willing to eat inside a restaurant? Let us know 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow. Email to I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:10:56

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about how people in this region are feeling about dining out or carry out. Are you eating outdoors? Are you willing to eat inside a restaurant? Have you been eating out? We're talking with Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort. They are the Co-hosts of the WAMU podcast Dish City. You both joined us this spring to talk about cooking at home during quarantine. But months into the pandemic as we begin settling into this new normal, I'll start with you Patrick, how have you both been approaching eating out? I mean, I for one haven't been approaching it. That's kind of a subject that we get into in our next episode.

  • 12:11:42

    NNAMDIWhy have you not been eating out?

  • 12:11:45

    FORTWell, I mean, I think there's a bunch of reasons. I think -- I mean, the big one obviously is that I don't feel comfortable doing it. And I think there's -- obviously I think like we things to be normal, right? And I totally understand kind of that desire. And I certainly feel the pull myself to want to eat out and to want to kind of see friends in social environments again. But I think there's a whole like list of things that I think are more important than that right now. And especially like wanting normalcy like if you try to go to a situation that feels -- where you're seeking normal in an abnormal time like you're going to be disappointed.

  • 12:12:37

    NNAMDIIs there data that helps you to maintain your position, Patrick?

  • 12:12:42

    FORTYeah, I mean, some of the reporting that's been coming out links, you know, positive cases of COVID-19 to dining out. Yeah. I mean, there's data there.

  • 12:12:59

    NNAMDIHow about you, Ruth?

  • 12:13:02

    TAMI have gone out to eat twice during this pandemic. The first time was at a fast casual place where I could pretty much limit my -- I didn't have to deal with any wait staff. I placed my order. I picked up my food. And then ate a socially distanced table. And then I also ate out once at a food hall out in Annandale where it was a similar situation. Place an order, I was able to pick it up really quickly, and then eat at a socially distanced table.

  • 12:13:31

    TAMAnd these were decisions that I made kind of like in -- I approached as like a one-time thing. I thought about who I was eating with, where I was eating, who was going to be there and I made my decision like that. And then, you know, I'm trying to approach every other instance where that comes up with that same kind of like, do I trust this situation? Do I trust this restaurant? And try to take it one situation at a time.

  • 12:13:58

    NNAMDIWell, our first caller Liz said she hadn't had pleasant experiences either with going to restaurants or with picking up. So let's hear from a few other people. Here is Kieran in Alexandria. Kieran, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:14:13

    KIERANHi, Kojo. Love your show. But I wanted to call in because my husband and I wanted to support local throughout this pandemic. We had great experienced during lockdown with doing curbside pickup, everything from casual dining like Pizza Hut all the way through to some of the more upscale restaurants that we like to frequent, and as of late we have probably been going out to eat maybe once every week or once every other week in really a myriad of establishments. We've gone to Michelin restaurants. We've gone to class casual.

  • 12:14:47

    KIERANAnd I have to say I think that if you adjust your expectations you won't be disappointed. So, yes, of course, it's not going to be constant table side service. But the quality of food is still there. People are still showing up and they're, you know, braving it to put out a wonderful meal for you and your family. And so my husband and I really appreciated that and tried to give back. There have been a couple of restaurants that have been so impressive, because you can pay online with online systems like

  • 12:15:17

    KIERANAnd so it's completely paperless. You're not touching the servers at all. You're leaving your plates in a sort of trough that they've set at the side. They're taking it away. They're constantly far away. And they're completely covered every time they come near you. So we felt really safe.

  • 12:15:32

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that with us, Kieran. Let's go to Jane in Alexandria, Virginia. Jane, your turn.

  • 12:15:39

    JANEHello. I have experiences very similar to Kieran. And very opposite of Liz who called earlier. And I -- pretty much every place I've gone has been here in Alexandria. And I've had excellent experiences. Many of the former staff are still there, and it was great to see them again.

  • 12:15:58

    JANEI started to call several days ago when you did the segment on music. Laporta's on Duke Street in Alexandria has live music again and every night of the week, and I've been there and I feel totally safe. They're following all the guidelines and doing everything. And then putting signs what they expect of the customers to do as well as far as wearing masks and so forth. And they've done -- several other places have done a nice job of either clearing out tables or marking tables that are not for sitting at so that they can still have some ambiance, but not -- but still follow the distance procedures. So I'm -- I've been very happy. I go pretty much every Tuesday at lunch with some friends of mine. And we've been very happy with everything.

  • 12:16:52

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. And it turns out that both of those last two calls were from people in Alexandria. So Alexandria might have something special going on. Let's talk now with Lauren R. Taylor, Director of Safe Bars and Defend Yourself. Lauren R. Taylor, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:17:10

    LAUREN TAYLORThank you for having me.

  • 12:17:13

    NNAMDILauren, the possibility is that the opposite of Ruth and Patrick are restaurant goers who may be too comfortable eating out. And as the pandemic wears on some customers are getting lax with safety precautions and it falls to those working in restaurants to enforce the rules. To address customers who are not following guidelines, sister organization Safe Bars and Defend Yourself teamed up to lead de-escalation trainings. And Lauren R. Taylor directs both of those organizations. Lauren, how have the challenges bartenders and waiters face at work changed over the past six months?

  • 12:17:48

    TAYLORAbsolutely. Well, one thing we know is that people who work in hospitality already have a lot of customer service skills, a lot of de-escalation skills, a lot of skills for making sure that people are comfortable and welcome and having a good time and happy with their food and drink.

  • 12:18:07

    TAYLORBut now what's happening is that, you know, pretty much everybody in the country is experiencing additional stress and probably fear. And a lot of time that turns into anger. And they're taking it out on people in service positions, essential workers, people who work in hospitality. And so, it's showing up -- and anybody who follows the news has seen these things. It's showing up, people walking in, angry, hostile, wanting to come in and have the rules bent for them or broken for them, whether it's not wearing a mask or whether it's pushing tables together when, you know, at least in D.C., it's maximum of six people at a table, those kinds of things.

  • 12:18:56

    TAYLORAnd, you know, hospitality workers have a lot of skills and have very hard jobs. And now to ask them also to enforce this kind of safety and to deal with people who are hostile and threatening, you know, I don't have any fancy way to say it. It's just not right. (laugh)

  • 12:19:23

    NNAMDIWell, what are the biggest reasons for confrontations between customers and restaurant workers?

  • 12:19:30


  • 12:19:30

    NNAMDIOh, one word, huh?

  • 12:19:32

    TAYLOROne word, masks. (laugh)

  • 12:19:34


  • 12:19:35

    TAYLORYes. Yeah.

  • 12:19:36

    NNAMDIWell, do customer know the rules, Lauren, in most cases?

  • 12:19:40


  • 12:19:40

    NNAMDIBecause it gets a little fuzzy, doesn't it? You do have to take your mask off to eat. What makes someone a good customer in this scenario?

  • 12:19:48

    TAYLORSo, a good customer walks in with a mask, sits where the designated seating areas are, which in D.C. is, you know, usually kind of, depending on how the restaurant or bar was set up pre-pandemic, is usually something like every other table. So, sits where the designated seating is and keeps their mask on except when they're eating.

  • 12:20:20

    TAYLORNow, a lot of places -- I think the rules technically allow you to have your mask off when you're at your table. But it would be better if when you're talking to the server, you also have a mask on.

  • 12:20:35

    NNAMDIIf you want to, like, order something extra or order a drink and you want the server to come back over while you're eating, it's best to put the mask back on when you're talking to the server.

  • 12:20:44

    TAYLORJust -- right, right. I mean, but that's not required. What's required is that, you know, when you're not at your table -- for example, a lot of people are pushing back on putting their masks back on when they go to the bathroom.

  • 12:21:01

    NNAMDIOh, okay. People don't feel that they need to do that.

  • 12:21:04


  • 12:21:04

    NNAMDIAnd it's...

  • 12:21:05

    TAYLORAnd I've even heard people say things like, well, why do I have to do that? There's nobody else in here. And it's like, excuse me, the people who work here are human beings, and they can catch the virus, too.

  • 12:21:18

    FORTExactly right. You're wearing the mask to protect other people, not to protect yourself (laugh) who have to come in the -- who have to go in there...

  • 12:21:23


  • 12:21:25 some point. Let me go now to Chelsea in Rockford. Chelsea, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:21:34

    CHELSEAHi, Kojo. Great to be on the show. I wanted to say that I haven't eaten out recently, but I have been doing a lot of takeout. Especially because I'm living with family, I've been really careful about being in spaces where, you know, I might be exposed, and expose other people in my family who might be vulnerable.

  • 12:21:52

    CHELSEAI really commend, like, the work of restaurant workers who are serving during this time because I have served as a server in the past before. But I know a lot of my apprehension comes from the fact that there have definitely been restaurants I've seen where there's lots of people outside or people don't seem to be that far apart. But I've also seen at restaurants that do really give a lot of adequate space and require that people space out.

  • 12:22:17

    CHELSEAI guess one thing about eating out is that I ate out a lot before the pandemic, so I've actually been able to save a lot of money in comparison to right now. And I think it's really interesting. I hope the conversation that also comes out of this is thinking about how, you know, servers can be able to be paid adequately for their time. Because really relying on tips I can imagine is, like, a really hard thing to do if there's not as many people that there are available to wait on.

  • 12:22:48

    NNAMDIThank you for your call. We got a tweet from Brian, who says: I'm a hospitality worker and I'm disappointed in the hostility shown to me and my coworkers. Folks seem to be over the pandemic and are upset when reminded that things are not normal. Please don't forget that hospitality workers endanger their lives to enable your leisure.

  • 12:23:06

    NNAMDIGoing to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue the conversation with Patrick Fort, Ruth Tam and Lauren R. Taylor, taking your calls at 800-433-8850. What strategies are you using to keep safe while dining out? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:23:37

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about how people who are in this region are feeling about dining out. We're talking with Lauren R. Taylor, Director of Safe Bars and Defend Yourself, and Patrick Fort and Ruth Tam, who are the co-hosts of Dish City, taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Ruth and Patrick, I'll start with you, Ruth, since you guys host a local food podcast, do you feel pressure to get back out there and check out the food scene?

  • 12:24:04

    TAMI think a little bit. I think when I was preparing for coming on this show, I was like, oh, you know, I've only been out to eat twice during this whole time. Like, I got to, like, you know, touch back and keep in touch with my sources and figure out what things have been like. I think this is a part of what people expect from dining out but also this is a time where people's personal sense of safety and comfort, like, that has all kind of been -- being thrown into question right now. And trying to not hold myself to standards that, you know, don't take into account my personal desire for safety. (laugh)

  • 12:24:43

    NNAMDIPatrick, have you been feeling the pressure?

  • 12:24:46

    FORTI mean, I think I'd agreed with everything that Ruth said. I think, you know, luckily, we are, I think, being very thoughtful about, you know, what we consider risks and what we're, like, willing to do. And I think that certainly you want to be out there, you know, for your profession, but also on a personal level, there's a pull on both ends.

  • 12:25:12

    NNAMDIRuth, for the most part restaurants in our region can serve outdoors or, if indoors, at 50 percent capacity. From your conversations with those in the restaurant industry, what are you seeing in terms of how the process of allowing diners back to restaurants has played out?

  • 12:25:29

    TAMIn terms of the 50 percent capacity thing, I think when I first started to consider going out to eat again, I assumed that there'd be, like -- I don't know what I thought. But I thought maybe there'd be, like, a bouncer at every door kind of like checking to see, like, how many people are coming in, coming out. But I think for -- it's obvious that restaurants, you know, they're not able to staff the people that they were before, much less, like, bouncers just counting people at the doors.

  • 12:25:53

    TAMSo, what people have done is they remove, you know, 50 percent of their seating indoors. And if they're even able to -- if it makes sense to be open during this time, they've limited the seating, they’ve limited the amount of time that people have to approach servers and restaurant workers. Every restaurant has their own rules and policies, and typically, all that stuff is available on each establishment's website.

  • 12:26:20

    NNAMDIRock tweets, there's no way that restaurant staff should be engaged with customers that don't want to wear masks. Walk away, get a manager or owner. Absolutely no reason and no compensation that can justify an employee having to deal with that. Owners, handle your business. Ruth, as you've been talking to people for Dish City, what have you been hearing about these issues?

  • 12:26:40

    TAMFrom what I've seen from restaurant workers who are posting online, I think there's worries that, like, they see two extremes. Like, they see diners who are super considerate and very, very cautious and trying to be very careful about going out. And then they see people who are very obviously flouting the rules. And I think during these times, like, any time we see something that differentiates from whatever we consider the norm, it sticks out to us.

  • 12:27:05

    TAMAnd so it's -- if you see someone doing something different than what you think is normal, it's going to be really clear in your mind. And so, they go on social media and they share all these stories of people breaking the rules. And, you know, there might be some people who, when you tell them, hey, can you put your mask back on or would you mind, if you remind them of your certain rules and policies, people will accommodate them. And then there are others who will, like, double down and get really upset about it. So, it is kind of what we've heard from Lauren, you know, that's what I've been hearing from restaurant workers.

  • 12:27:41

    NNAMDIIndeed, Lauren R. Taylor, can you tell us more about confrontations caused by time limits on tables and earlier closing times?

  • 12:27:49

    TAYLORThat's exactly what I was thinking about when Ruth was talking, is that another pain point is the earlier closing times. And it's causing two problems. One is that customers, patrons are resisting it. Again, I totally embrace what Ruth is saying, that it's not everybody. Plenty of people are being very respectful, but it's the few people who are, you know, putting everybody at risk and causing a lot of extra stress for people who work in bars and restaurants.

  • 12:28:23

    TAYLORSo, they're pushing back on the closing time. And the other problem that's related to that is that they're drinking more, faster, because they don't have as much time to do it in. And so, you know, as always, bartenders and servers have to monitor to make sure that they're not over-serving. But patrons are more likely to give them a hard time about it.

  • 12:28:51

    NNAMDIWhat about customers who fear that their waiter is not following safety protocols? What should they say or do?

  • 12:28:59

    TAYLORAbsolutely. And, you know, all of us -- my plea for everybody is to be empathetic and compassionate and realize that everybody in the world is having a hard time now. And so, if you see a server who is not wearing their mask properly or doing something else that you feel puts you at risk, very simply just say, you know, can you pull your mask up, or can you step back a little bit?

  • 12:29:30

    TAYLORAnd if you don't get what you need, ask for the manager, as always. You know, it's always better to bring -- and I bow to Tom Sietsema, here, it's always better to bring up the problem right then, when it can be addressed, rather than going on Yelp or whatever and complaining later.

  • 12:29:51

    NNAMDIPatrick, do you see your anxiety stemming from the behavior both of customers and restaurant workers?

  • 12:29:59

    FORTYou know, I think for me, with my limited-to-no experience dining out at restaurants, I think the thing that I struggle with is the expectations of other customers. I think, you know, there's a very -- there's at least, you know, rules and I can go up and see what restaurants are supposed to be doing and what guidelines have been established, even though they're new. And everybody's working their hardest to kind of get up to date and up to spec on those.

  • 12:30:27

    FORTI think that's a thing you can control and you can kind of vet yourself. But I think the challenging thing for me is that I don't know what, you know, the tables around me are doing. I don't know what those people are doing. You know, and I think to a point we were talking about earlier is that the amount of mask wearing that is happening doesn't necessarily line up with how much should be happening in terms of diners.

  • 12:30:53

    NNAMDIWell, a number of people have been waiting on the phone for a while to join this conversation. So, I'll start with Obee in Washington, D.C. Obee, your turn.

  • 12:31:01

    OBEEHey, Kojo. Love your show, by the way. I'm a creative director. I serve a lot of hospitality (unintelligible). And one thing that's striking me right now is we’re hearing the word support a lot from people who are disappointed with their experiences. And I just want to point out that you don't support something when it's at its best. You support it because you experienced it at its best.

  • 12:31:21

    OBEESo, I think we just need to sort of like -- some people have echoed this -- we need to adjust our expectations. Because I've been a career server and bartender, and I remember being a bartender. The running joke is like you're everyone's therapist. And when you're a server, on a bad day, you're a punching bag, on a good day, you're a security blanket. And this is an industry that we've gotten used to supporting us at our best and our worst. And I think as a community as a whole, we need to realize this is our time to show up for them and support them, which means adjusting our expectations.

  • 12:31:54

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. Care to comment on that, Lauren?

  • 12:31:58

    TAYLORI couldn't have said it better. I really appreciate the call. It's something everybody needs to hear.

  • 12:32:05


  • 12:32:05

    TAYLORAnd I will just add one thing: tip well.

  • 12:32:09

    NNAMDIThank you for sharing that, Obee. And, yes, tip well. Here's Brian in Alexandria, Virginia. Brian, go ahead, please.

  • 12:32:17

    BRIANWell, we went out to dinner on Monday for the first time since all this started, with the exception of, like, drive-thru, takeout, fast food type stuff. So, went to a favorite restaurant of ours, the Carlyle in Shirlington, Virginia. We had gotten their curbside service a few months ago and done that, but this was the first time that they were open and they were available.

  • 12:32:36

    BRIANWe sat outside which they always had a nice outside seating, anyways, and it was a beautiful night Monday, if anybody remembers. So, I would've sat outside anyways even if it hadn't been for this. When we got there, we saw that they had done -- they definitely made some changes to the sidewalk now by the restaurant. They've actually taken over the curb lane of the road there and made little barriers. So, now the sidewalk traffic goes around them, so they got to have the entire sidewalk for their seating.

  • 12:33:00

    BRIANAll the tables were spaced out, you know, the way they were. We had a very positive experience. We got a nice little table there. Of course, we had our masks on. The server had her mask. I'm glad you mentioned before sort of the still getting used to this. Obviously, you can't eat with a mask on. For a while we tried a little thing where it was dangling off our ear. You know, I didn't know whether we should eat and put the mask back on and then eat and then...

  • 12:33:21

    NNAMDIOh, no, that's crazy. (laugh)

  • 12:33:21

    BRIAN...or just keep it off for the duration. One time we didn't have our masks on when the server came up and talked to us. So, you know, I answered a question and then my wife said, oh, maybe we should have them on. So, when she came over we quickly put the masks back on when the server was there. So, we're still getting used to the protocol there.

  • 12:33:38

    BRIANThe one thing that they used to have at that restaurant, really nice bread. They weren't serving bread anymore, but directly next to the restaurant...

  • 12:33:44


  • 12:33:45 their own little bread...

  • 12:33:46

    NNAMDIThank you for sharing but I got to interrupt you because we're running out of time. And, Lauren, I only have about 30 seconds for you to tell us more about the de-escalation trainings that you're conducting for restaurant workers.

  • 12:33:58

    TAYLORAbsolutely. Thanks for asking. So, we're offering them, at a sliding scale fee, nobody turned away for inability to pay, online. And you can find them at or And then we're also offering them to establishments that might want to hire us to train their staff. We've had a lot of success, and people say it helps them be more confident in keeping themselves and their patrons safe.

  • 12:34:25

    NNAMDILauren R. Taylor is director of Safe Bars and Defend Yourself. Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort are the co-hosts of Dish City. Thank you all for joining us. Today's show on dining out in the DMV was produced by Inés Rénique. On an upcoming Kojo Show, we're remembering lives lost to COVID-19. Has someone close to you passed away from the coronavirus? Share your story with us. Go to and click on the banner that says, “Remembering the Lives Lost.”

  • 12:34:54

    NNAMDIComing up Friday on The Politics Hour, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich joins us to talk about the Purple Line debacle, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's highway widening project. Plus, we'll hear about the latest coronavirus numbers and we'll talk about the effect the pandemic is having on the county budget. That all starts tomorrow, at noon, of course with our resident analyst Tom Sherwood on hand. Until then, thank you all for listening, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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