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New Proposal Would Limit Alcohol Service to 4 a.m., Require Fee

As we told you last week, D.C. Council member Tommy Wells will propose legislation aimed at rolling back some of the provisions in the council's emergency legislation that would allow bars and nightclubs to serve alcohol until 5 a.m. and stay open all night for inauguration week Jan. 17-21.

Wells (D-Ward 6) gave Inauguration Watch a rundown of what he intends to propose at the council's legislative meeting tomorrow:

* Restrict alcohol service to 4 a.m., same as on New Year's Eve. (On normal nights, establishments must close at 2 a.m. on weekdays, 3 a.m. on weekends.)
* Require nightclubs to pay $250 and bars and restaurants $100 for a license to be able to participate in the extended hours.
* Give Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier the authority to revoke the extended hours on an individual basis for establishments that abuse the privilege.
* Require nightclub, bar and restaurant owners to submit a safety and security plan to the city.

Wells said he will not propose a change to the dates of Jan. 17-21, even though there had been some discussion about removing Sunday Jan. 18 from the extended hours. Wells is working on lining up majority support on the 13-member council, but it appears as though it will be nip-and-tuck during the vote tomorrow. Some members are holding firm to the original emergeny bill; some favor Wells's more restrictive plan; and at least one does not want bars and restaurants to remain open any longer than normal.

"I'm working on it today," Wells said of lining up the votes.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) had sent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) a letter last week objecting to the extended hours, citing a strain on law enforcement resources that could jeopardize security around inaugural events.

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington had helped develop the originial legislation, but general counsel Andrew Klein said today that the organization is on board with Wells's new bill.

"We are supportive," Klein said. "Some of the ideas came from us. The idea of registration came from us. We do not have any problem with his approach."

Klein said he does not know how many establishments will pay the registration fee.

"Certainly the reason for having registration is to determine exactly that," he said. "When we talked to the police, they had concerns about not knowing who would participate. We told them we'd help them with that."

By David A Nakamura  |  December 15, 2008; 1:17 PM ET  | Category:  Entertainment , Food & Dining , Security
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bars and nightclubs should close earlier than usual - with the expected record-breaking crowds this celebration doesn't need record-breaking alcohol consumption (and its attendant problems) to fuel the euphoria most in our nations feel with Mr. Obama's election. Again common sense goes out the window with accountability - typical of Washington DC's mindset.

Posted by: lesliep1 | December 15, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The problem with closing the bars at a set time is that you get a crowd of people released onto the streets all at once at a set time - it is far better to let everyone out one-by-one over a long period of time.

Posted by: 37thandORules | December 16, 2008 7:46 AM | Report abuse

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