Arlington Installs Physical Distancing Ordinance Signage, Enforcement

Published on August 26, 2020

Arlington's vibrant nightlife scene continues to attract long lines of patrons waiting to enter popular restaurants, and with it, a growing concern for the spread of COVID-19.

There is community-wide transmission of COVID-19 in the National Capital Region, including Arlington. Groups of people congregating increases the risk of spread of the virus. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another and staying for a period of time.

As part of the County's efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in our community, the County Board adopted an emergency ordinance prohibiting groups of more than three people from congregating and requiring pedestrians to maintain at least six feet of physical separation from others on posted streets and sidewalks. Following several weeks of public education, the County has installed physical distancing ordinance signage and will begin Phase I enforcement on Friday, August 28.

"We have taken time to roll out the physical distancing ordinance and are going to start enforcement this weekend," said County Manager Mark Schwartz. "I remain deeply frustrated with what we are seeing in the community. My frustration is not with restaurants, but with patrons and open defiance of people standing outside these businesses. I anticipate that I will come back to the County Board with additional recommendations to take more actions if we cannot minimize the spread of this pandemic."

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Phase I Enforcement Locations 

Observations by the Arlington Restaurant Initiative staff and data from our online complaint tool regarding gatherings supports sign installation in the below locations within the Clarendon Neighborhood.

  • East side of 10th Street between the south side of Wilson Boulevard and N. Irving Street

  • North side of Wilson Boulevard between N. Irving and N. Hudson streets and west side of N. Hudson Street

  • North side of Wilson between N. Garfield and N. Fillmore streets and west side of N. Fillmore Street

  • South side of Wilson between N. Fillmore and N. Edgewood Street and east side of N. Fillmore Street

Arlington will continue to review the data over the coming weeks and additional areas of enforcement are anticipated. The County is working with businesses in the area to help patrons comply with the ordinance by placing sidewalk decals outside popular businesses.

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Public Education and Enforcement Efforts

Arlington's first priority continues to be focused on public education and voluntary compliance, even as enforcement begins. Since adoption of the ordinance, County Public Health Officials, the Police Department and Fire Marshal's Office have been visiting Arlington establishments to provide education for businesses and patrons about the importance of physical distancing in an effort to build voluntary compliance.

The Police Department has planned a warning period over the weekend to help bring public awareness to the changes and encourage compliance through the issuance of verbal and written warnings for observed infractions. The warning period will also give business patrons an opportunity to become familiar with the newly designated areas. Violators are subject to a traffic fine of up to a $100 and citations will be issued at the completion of the weekend warning period.

While the signage is applicable at all times, enforcement will focus on nighttime hours of 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. when Arlington County has experienced significant crowding on public sidewalks, sometimes for prolonged periods of time.

As a reminder during the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone should practice social distancing, wear face coverings, wash their hands frequently, and stay home if they are sick.

Learn more about Arlington's response to COVID-19