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Breaking News: 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; 5:12 PM ET  | Category:  Entertainment , Food & Dining , Security
Previous: Montgomery County School Board Votes for Inaugural Holiday | Next: See Local Inaugural Bands in Action

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It would make more sense if only hotel bars and eateries were allowed to stay open later than usual - that way, out of towners and locals alike could carry-on, in relatively few venues where they already stay or where they could readily catch a cab to go home. Far less bruhaha on the streets and still a good time could be had by all.

Posted by: dschalton | December 9, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Man, what a bunch of killjoys! People will be drinking and yes there will be revelry, but it'll be a positive thing, like Election Night. Just wait and see. No riots, just peace and love, man.

Posted by: why1201 | December 9, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

These so called "voluntary" agreements are actually coerced agreements. You can't open a restaurant or bar in this town without one.

It's well know that ANC's weight far too much into their individual neighborhood businesses, and frankly they don't care about the bigger picture. I think it's an antiquated system, used by armchair politicians as spring board to local politics of DC and it's waste of time, tax payer money and effort.


BUTT OUT Sens. Feinstein and Bennett, mind your business!!

The disenfranchised citizens of DC can decide this on their own. We can't call up their offices and intervene on there local politics, we don't need or care to hear about their concerns on ours.

They can stress out all they want on the little strip of land called the Mall... and leave the rest of this city to us to sort out.

Posted by: rondeline | December 9, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Feinstein and Bennett can go to hell. The city is really going to need all those extra taxes as this economic crisis begins to sap our revenue from pretty much all other taxes. This will be happening just as our neediest residents require the most help.

Feinstein lives in a pretty lively part of Georgetown. I wouldn't be surprised if she's not doing this just to avoid being "inconvenienced" by the extra noise. I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, it's just a hunch.

Posted by: awesom0 | December 9, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Rondeline, but the thing is, because the two senators weighed in, this thing will probably be changed.

And it changing (back) is a good thing.

Posted by: columbiard | December 9, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

How about this: The US Senators can have a vote in our local DC government issues when DC Residents get a vote in Congress!! Taxation without Representation at its best.

Posted by: lc111 | December 9, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Senator Feinstein is far far far out of her jurisdiction. Like wrong coast far.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | December 9, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Let the people of DC decide for ourselves - whatever we vote, goes (for a change!).

Posted by: kinlay | December 9, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Unless I'm mistaken, Sen. Feinstein was elected by the voters of CALIFORNIA, not Washington. As for a Utah senator saying anything about alcohol rules, it's a laugh. Try getting something besides 3.2 in Salt Lake City.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 9, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey Bennett this is DC NOT Utah (where you can't buy alcohol after the sun goes down). Don't tell us what to do in our town. Go back to Utah and stay there...and Republicrat Feinstein can join you...

Posted by: demosuzuki | December 9, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

If having bars open until 5:00am is a good idea, why not do it all the time?

This is an absolutely disgraceful way to encourage people to celebrate Barrack's inaugural.

It is setting Barrack, Washington, D.C., and the black community up for real embarrassment at exactly the wrong moment.

Posted by: TomLogue | December 9, 2008 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Finally someone who has some sense. You people ever hear of the NBA All-Star game weekend? It is dreaded by the police in whatever city that it is held. There is mayhem in the streets, shootings, and all kinds of trouble and most of it is caused by alcohol. The same kind of people who cause this trouble will be descending on DC.

Posted by: MKadyman | December 9, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

If they're that concerned, give our city more resources for the FEDERAL inauguration (they gave Minneapolis and Denver $50M each, us $15M) rather than meddling in OUR affairs. We don't even have a voting representative, and they have the gall to try to tell us how to tend our own house? This city is in better financial stead than most (particularly than her mismanaged home state of CA), but letting bars stay open an extra whopping 2 hrs is harmless. In NYC and Chicago it's like that every weekend. If anything, it will lessen the immediate toll of 500,000 people all getting out at 3 am, per usual. They will be spread across multiple hours.

Posted by: sgrahamuva | December 9, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh Oh...
There is a real chance here of too many people having too good of a time!

Should keep these special hours year-round!

Posted by: kase | December 9, 2008 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Fuhrer Feinstein should mind her own business and tend to her own state instead of trying to exert undue influence on others.

Last I checked, they've got THEIR hand out asking for CHANGE, too.

This is what happens when traitorous people like her repeatedly ignore the will of the people and never get called out on it. Money for Wall Street? Sure. GM? Why not? Now she wants to run DC, too?

Leave em open - we'll ALL need a huge drink after this fiasco. Welcome to The Socialist Police State of Omerica.

Posted by: Mobiusinformer | December 10, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

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