District of Columbia Drops Additional Insurance Requirement for Outdoor Dining

September 21, 2022

The District of Columbia is withdrawing a proposal to boost the insurance requirement for sidewalk cafes, parklets, streateries and other dining and drinking businesses applying for public use permits.

According to Councilor-at-Large Robert C. White, Jr., the city’s Office of Risk Management has informed him that it is dropping the proposal after he questioned the necessity and cost on behalf of local bars and restaurants.

The city confirmed the decision. “In an effort to support the hospitality industry and small businesses, the District decided to maintain the current insurance levels,” a spokesperson wrote to Insurance Journal.

The ORM had proposed requiring businesses to have a $1 million liquor liability policy and umbrella coverage in addition to a general liability policy which is already required. ORM said that the additional coverages were originally supposed to be in effect in January 2021 but were postponed until 2023 due to the economic strain the pandemic placed on businesses.

White said District small business owners contacted him in his capacity as chair of the Committee on Government Operations & Facilities expressing concern about the new requirements. On their behalf, on Sept. 8, he wrote to ORM Director Jedd Ross explaining that the businesses contend they remain under strain and cannot afford to pay more for insurance. He also told Ross that the new insurance requirements exceed those of other major metropolitan areas and there may be only a few insurers offering the coverage in the District.

On Sept. 16, ORM Director Ross informed White’s committee that the insurance increase has been scrapped completely.

The current requirements of a $1 million per occurrence / $2 million aggregate general liability policy will remain in effect for those seeking outdoor permits. The requirements also include workers’ compensation and automobile liability coverages.

The city launched an expanded program of permits for outdoor eateries in 2020 to assist restaurants and bars suffering from closures due to the pandemic.