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Sens. Feinstein, Bennett Object to D.C. Inaugural Nightlife Legislation

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) are objecting to the emergency law approved by the D.C. Council last week that would allow city nightclubs, bars and restaurants to remain open all night and serve alcohol until 5 a.m. from Jan. 17-21.

In a letter to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), the senators write that they are "deeply concerned that the plan approved by the City Council could seriously strain law enforcement resources that need to be focused on the large crowds and security requirements of the Inaugural and its impact on the City."

Feinstein is the Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), and Bennett, is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

In a statement, Feinstein said: "What is clearly meant as a boon to local businesses may instead create tremendous problems for already overwhelmed law enforcement agencies."

Also, D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles has been asked to review the law after questions were raised about whether the new regulations can legally undo so-called "voluntary agreements" that many establishments have signed along with neighborhood groups.

Hundreds of nightclubs, bars and restaurants have consented to the agreements, which generally set more restrictive rules on such issues as hours of operation, whether they can play live music, and so on.

Neighborhood activists are demanding that the voluntary agreements remain enforced during inaugural week, saying they are akin to legally binding contracts. The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board this week asked Nickles to review the council's legislation and make a ruling. Nickles said he's also reviewing the endorsement applications that the nightclubs, bars and restaurants filed with the ABC board in order to get a license, as those applications also set certain restrictions.

"I'm looking at it," Nickles said. "I've got a variety of agreements, and they're not all the same. They cover a lot of establishments."

Denis James, head of the Kalorama Citizens Association, said: "The voluntary agreement rules in my opinion. They should stand. The only establishments that qualify for later hours are the ones that don't have voluntary agreements."

Fenty has not yet signed the council's legislation. Fenty (D) has said he supported extending service hours for bars and restaurants, but not for nightclubs. But the council voted 9-4 to include nighclubs anyway.

Nickles said he should have a decision this week.

(Read the full text of the letter from Feinstein and Bennett after the jump.)

Dear Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Gray:
We are writing today to urge that City Council and the Mayor reverse emergency legislation approved by the Council last week that permits nightclubs, bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages until 5 a.m. for four nights during the Inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President.
With projections as high as 4 million people planning to visit the city during this time period, we are deeply concerned that the plan approved by the City Council could seriously strain law enforcement resources that need to be focused on the large crowds and security requirements of the Inaugural and its impact on the City.
There is great cause for celebration at this historic event. But we believe that the benefits of this emergency legislation, passed with little public notice, are far outweighed by its possible consequences.
We understand the pressures you face from the different constituencies in your city. But we also know the importance of standing firm to ensure the safety of residents, workers and visitors who will be in Washington, D.C., participating in this historic event."
Robert F. Bennett Dianne Feinstein


By David A Nakamura  |  December 9, 2008; 5:35 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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Do they plan to send a letter to Mayor Bloomberg regarding their "concerns" over New York City's bar hours too? Theirs actually last all year, not one week.

This is a joke. Maybe their staffs should not be so stupid when signing their boss's names to an FOP letter.

Posted by: billjones21 | December 9, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

DISRESPECT. The operative question is do the Citizens and/or the DC Council and/or the Mayor need to send a letter to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, or Provo and tell those local jurisdictions that we don't want them doing something there local leaders have passed. This again is the height of DISRESPECT by fools who can't keep their own houses in order. And I don't want to hear any bs about Washington, DC is their city also. That’s a lie. None of these people (senator or staffer) pay any income taxes to support Washington, DC and last time I checked in the capitalist system we use, he who pays (DC Citizens) the piper calls the tune. Neither Senator nor their constituents would even dignify a letter from DC with an answer if DC were to do what they have done. The senators and their constituents would laugh.
With respect to the 'liquor hours' DC should benefit from the increased sales (liquor, food, etc.) since DC is going to be footing a hefty bill for all the 'USE' the city will be under during the inaugural time frame. I say that, since, I have seen nothing that the Senators have put forward in making sure DC is reimbursed for the costs (direct and indirect)of holding such an event. Also, you are correct in the previous comment, some 'stupid' staffer signed on to this without thought, or asking, and now the 'boss' is towing the line.
As far as the FOP (DC) membership is concerned, the majority (prob. above 85%) of whom, don’t live in DC either (and pay no taxes here to support their salary), so their ‘opinion’ is just that. They work for the city and the citizens of Washington, DC. Again if you don’t like the ‘tune’ call, move into the city, put your money where your mouth and (JOB) is and participate, otherwise go back to where you have your money and your life and concern yourself with happenings there.

Posted by: DCDCSW | December 10, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I don't oppose nightclub owners trying to make a buck at a time when the population in the District will grow 3 to 4 fold. However, it is no question that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has a tough time keeping the local thugs, robbers and homicidal maniacs in check, much less, controling those that are bound to seize the opportunity to victimize visitors to the Nation's Capital.

If the locals didn't produce such violent children perhaps the idea wouldn't seem so dangerous. But, in this welfare driven town, that is the reality.

New York City is no comparison to the District, it has more people, but it is nowhere near as DENSE as the District, they have more square miles to spread to.

Is this necessary, no, is it dangerous, yes, will it be detrimental to the city, it depends. It depends on if a "tragedy" occurs after 3-4 a.m. involving a visitor leaving or inside of a local bar.

The press will eat that up and the District will again be the center of a national embarrassment.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | December 10, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

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