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Letter to Director Ross at The Office of Risk Management (ORM)

September 8th, 2022

Mr. Jedd Ross
Director/Chief Risk Officer
Office of Risk Management
441 4th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Director Ross:

I am writing you concerning the substantial increase in insurance requirements for outdoor eateries. The Office of Risk Management (“ORM”) has announced new insurance requirements that the business community is describing as untenable.

These new insurance requirements have the potential to displace businesses and eliminate outdoor eating options in the District. In response to the concerns of local businesses, my office contacted ORM in May of this year to seek answers. The answers justifying the increase were insufficient. Therefore, my office did further research to better understand the impact of the insurance increases on local businesses. Business owners and insurance industry professionals assert that:
• The new insurance requirements far exceed the insurance requirements of comparable major metropolitan areas;
• Most eateries, considering the present economy, will not be able to afford the increase in insurance premiums; and
• There are only a handful of insurance companies that will provide the coverage the District is asking for, which will further drive up premiums due to a lack of adequate competition.

I understand these new requirements are expected to be enforced on January 1st, 2023. On July 1st, 2022, my office sent a second set of questions to ORM to better understand the reasoning behind the increase in insurance requirements. Unfortunately, it has now been more than two months without a justification for these increased costs. The small and local District businesses who bear the burden of heightened insurance requirements deserve an explanation. Please submit, in writing, to the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities by the close of business on Friday, September 16th, 2022 the answers to the following questions:

  1. Considering general liability insurance has been the sole requirement to operate an eatery in the District, what specific risk is being mitigated with the sudden increase in insurance requirements? Has the million-dollar general liability insurance minimum requirement been found to be insufficient?
  2. The District’s proposed insurance requirements appear to exceed other metropolitan areas. Why are the District’s requirements such an outlier?
  3. ORM noted “the initial requirements that included liquor liability and umbrella coverages were slated to go into effect on January 1, 2021, but were postponed until January 1, 2023, in consideration of the economic strain placed on businesses.” Why does ORM believe this is a less challenging time to enforce the increase in insurance requirements?
  4. Does ORM have an estimate of how much liquor and umbrella coverage will cost businesses on average in the District?
  5. What benefit does ORM believe will outweigh the displacement pressure of the new insurance requirements; especially for small businesses in the District?
  6. As the increase is on all outdoor dining, regardless of having a streatery, what efforts are in place to communicate the increase to existing small businesses that will be impacted?


If the Committee can provide any assistance in this effort, please feel free to contact me or my Committee Director Shawn Hilgendorf at shilgendorf@dccouncil.gov.

Sincerely,

Robert C. White, Jr.
Councilmember, At-Large
Chair, Committee on Government Operations and Facilities
Council of the District of Columbia

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