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D.C. Council Amends Inaugural Bar Hours

District bars and nightclubs will be allowed to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., not 5 a.m., during inauguration week after the D.C. Council voted to amend the emergency legislation it had approved two weeks ago.

Under the legislation approved by the council this evening, bars, restaurants and nightclubs will still be allowed to remain open for food service around the clock from Jan. 17-21. However, they will have to pay a registration fee for each evening they intend to stay open past normal hours of 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. Nightclubs will be required to pay $250 for each night they remain open later and bars and restaurants will have to pay $100 per night.

The council's move to extend operating hours had drawn criticism from community leaders, religious organizations and even Sens. Dianne Feintstein (D-Calif.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who wrote a letter of protest to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). The senators cited security concerns, saying law enforcement personnel would be stretched too thin if required to help police the nightlife districts all night in addition to working on inauguration event security.

Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) introduced the new legislation, saying they were trying to answer concerns from the community. The 4 a.m. hours match the extension the city gives nightlife establishments on New Year's Eve.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said letting bars and nightclubs stay open later than normal was a bad idea. He said law enforcement officials have told him that Barack Obama's inaugural could be the "biggest event in United States history."

Mendelson added that "our law enforcement personnel will be stretched to the max for the inauguration. Police will not be available to help bars and nightclubs stay open until 4 in the morning."

Mendelson also noted that Metro has not agreed to run trains past 3 a.m. on Jan. 17, midnight on Jan. 18 and 19 and 2 a.m. on Jan. 20.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), a booster of the extended hours, mocked the concerns raised by Mendelson and others, calling it a "sky-is-falling, Chicken Little mantra."

Update 10:13: The council also unanimously approved emergency legislation tonight that will suspend juvenile arraignments Jan. 20. City law requires juveniles who have been arrested to be arraigned the next day with the exception of Sunday, meaning those picked up on Saturday are not arraigned until Monday.

The legislation, requested by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), would suspend arraignments so that youths arrested Jan. 19 would not appear in court until Jan. 21. Mendelson said record-breaking crowds could make it difficult for juveniles to make it downtown to court. Police officers, required to appear in court, will be on other duties that day.

By David Nakamura and Nikita Stewart

By David A Nakamura  |  December 16, 2008; 8:12 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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