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A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White To Go

The D.C. Council just voted 12 to 1 to permit patrons of restaurants to take unfinished bottles of wine with them after several minutes of debate full of puns.

Currently, diners must leave the bottles behind or down the last drops.

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) sponsored the measure as an amendment to the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Amendment Act of 2008. Brown had a prop - a bottle of wine tucked into a clear plastic bag, which he described as a doggie bag.

Under the measure, those patrons, with their re-corked bottles in the plastic bag, would not be subject to open container laws.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), sponsor of the Omnibus, refused to accept the amendment as friendly and then cast the dissenting vote. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), noting the amendment had not been vetted at a hearing, voted present.

The majority, however, agreed with Brown. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said 45 states already have similar laws. Brown later corrected him and said the number is actually 48.

Barry said if you rush to try to finish a bottle of wine before leaving a restaurant, "you might get drunk."

"Last time I checked," he added to laughter.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said he makes too little money to leave behind an expensive bottle of wine, twice using the scenario of taking his wife out for their anniversary.

"You've certainly made some sobering arguments," said Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D).

Graham tried to reason with his colleagues that enforcement could be a problem and wondered how the council could consider such a change on the same day that it will likely vote to ban the sale of single containers of beer and malt liquor in wards 4, 7 and 8.

His arguments were dismissed.

"This is different than walking into the cornerstore at Minnesota and Pennsylvania and walking out with a single can of Budweiser," Brown said.

Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) said, "This has nothing to do with that legislation."


By Nikita R Stewart  |  May 6, 2008; 1:14 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
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