Special Classifieds Feature

Buy Washington Post Inauguration newspapers, books, and more

Church Leaders Join Fight Against Extended Bar Hours

A day after Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Bob Bennett called on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and D.C. Council members to rescind the emergency law that will let bars and nightclubs stay open around the clock from Jan. 17-21 for the inauguration, District church leaders have joined the opposition.

The Downtown Cluster of Congregations, a nonprofit ecumenical association, sent a letter to the mayor citing several reasons why allowing alcohol to be served until 5 a.m. -- several hours later than usual -- is a bad idea.

The letter, signed by Executive Director Terrance Lynch, echoed the concerns of Feinstein and Bennett that the later hours would tax police officers, potentially compromising their ability to focus on inaugural security. But the church leaders went further, citing possible problems in neighborhoods near the entertainment districts.

Lynch writes that "two months ago Chief [Cathy] Lanier responded to what was described as a crime emergency in Adams Morgan owing to impacts from the night life venues, with a large increase in robberies and assaults. In response MPD dramatically increased coverage for the area. Yet now the proposal is to increase the hours and length of service of alcoholic beverages in a neighborhood with a history of safety problems?"

Though Fenty had objected to including the city's 48 nightclubs in the legislation, he has said he will sign it into law. Last night, the mayor's spokesperson released a statement from him that was remarkable only for its vagueness and refusal to address the questions at hand--namely, does the mayor share Feinstein's and Bennett's concerns?

"My Administration will do everything possible to ensure the safety and well being of residents and visitors during the inauguration period," the statement read.

(Read the full letter from the Downtown Cluster of Congregations after the jump.)

Dec. 10, 2008 Mayor Adrian Fenty Wilson Building 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004 re: Proposed Extension of Bar Hours of Service / Operation
Dear Mayor Fenty,
The Downtown Cluster of Congregations strongly opposes the extension of service hours of alcoholic beverages.
The reasons for this are several. The residents and surrounding businesses of the areas most impacted had little to no opportunity to comment on this proposal. It has been known for some time the Inaugural dates, and yet this has been enacted on an emergency basis? Those that will have to cope with potential secondary impacts from the events and services at establishments that remain open and serving were not given full opportunity to comment on this proposal, and their concerns should have been fully aired and weighed prior to any changes.

There is concern that the safety personnel for the city will be stretched too far to provide adequate coverage. While I understand police and safety personnel will be coming from other jurisdictions, they certainly will not be familiar with the neighborhoods needing coverage. Priority will most likely occur for all federal locations and the inaugural route, the motorcades, national and international VIPS, and other sensitive locations. While I know MPD personnel will do their utmost, this will present another significant duty amongst many they will face in coping with such an unprecedented number of visitors. As experienced as DC personnel is, this event will likely surpass all others in scale and public safety needs.

I would note that two months ago Chief Lanier responded to what was
described as a crime emergency in Adams Morgan owing to impacts from the night life venues, with a large increase in robberies and assaults. In response MPD dramatically increased coverage for the area. Yet now the proposal is to increase the hours and length of service of alcoholic beverages in a neighborhood with a history of safety problems?

Yes, the Inauguration is an event to be celebrated. There are ample
hours and venues for celebration that include alcohol service. However, service up until 5 am can quite possibly have negative impacts upon neighborhoods and quality of life issues and if such does occur, mar this national event.

The extension applies to include the Martin Luther King Holiday -
is such expanded hours of alcohol service in the spirit of that holiday?

The Downtown Cluster of Congregations urges that the extension be reconsidered and rescinded.

Terrance Lynch
Executive Director

cc: DC City Council

By David A Nakamura  |  December 10, 2008; 12:27 PM ET  | Category:  Entertainment , Food & Dining , Security
Previous: 'Renewing America's Promise' | Next: Around the Web

Add Inauguration Watch to Your Site
Stay on top of the latest from Inauguration Watch! This easy-to-use widget is simple to add to your own Web site and will update every time there's a new installment of Inauguration Watch.
Get This Widget >>


I'm expecting the Women's Christian Temperance Union to weigh in anytime now.

Posted by: DupontJay | December 10, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

In allowing the sale of alcohol 24/7 while increasing its population fivefold, the leaders of DC again prove that they are incapable of managing the district. A third grader could see that this is a bad idea. Further it is also disgraceful to tie this celebration to the sell and promotion of additional alcohol products. Thankfully senators are stepping.

Posted by: Brigadere | December 10, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Leave it up to DC to contribute to the crime problems that it already cannot control.

Posted by: justhere | December 10, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

There are going to be a lot more police on hand than just DC police. The ignorance displayed in their killjoy letter is quite convenient.

Posted by: timscanlon | December 10, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Nice how people that don't live in out city feel fit to pass judgment on it. Why don't we restrict bar hours on new years eve as well? This certainly isn't a permanent change to the bars in DC, and try and forgive us if we want to celebrate a truly historic occasion.

Posted by: -01- | December 10, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

You know what has a much greater negative effect on quality of life in my neighborhood? Massive, systematic violations of any and all parking regulations by the parishoners of numerous churches. That happens every Sunday (and sometimes on other days as well), not just once every four years. Maybe the would-be Carrie Nations of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations should spend some time dealing with that issue instead.

Posted by: EdTheRed | December 10, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

These so-called "church leaders" pretty much protest everything that doesn't fit their "preserve the ghetto for God" mentality. They protested upscale restaurants in the 9th Street corridor near the Convention Center delaying the liquor license of many a restaurant, an upscale gay bar, an upscale gay nightclub, cafes, wine bars, everything that tangentially involves a spot of wine and gentrifying gays enjoying themselves. I say, let people enjoy themselves till 5 am. If the Church leaders are so concerned, they can cloister themselves in their churches and pray that God makes his flock drink in moderation.

Posted by: jaysit | December 10, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

It's a legitimate concern that the cops will be over-taxed. I'm not sure what other police besides DC will be here, but if there are any, I doubt if they'll be patrolling the street and looking for drunk drivers.

The mayor's reaction is typical of him. He's like kid in school that everybody likes, is class president, gets good grades. But once you get to know him, you realize nothing is there, it's all a facade. Nobody's ever called him on it, so he gets bigger and bigger. He's just an image, he has no clue how to govern, and I haven't even seen any exhibit of him having a rational process of thinking.

Posted by: mike8 | December 10, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

It seems the real fear these people have is not that horrible things will happen during the five nights in question, but rather that they won't. If nothing happened, it would call into question the need to close bars and nightclubs early the rest of the time.

The truth is that forced closing times contribute to exactly the sorts of crowds on the street that they are objecting to: 18th street is at its most crazy during the hour just after all the bars close, but before people have gone home. If people left the bars on their own between 2 and 5am, these sorts of crowds would not form. Very few people would stay out until closing, and few bars would make use of the entire period, leading to staggered bar closings (further reducing street crowds) between 1:30 and 5am. This would make policing the crowds easier, as the police would know when to expect people at each bar and nightclub, and would be able to predict the flow to those which stayed open later.

America's problem with alcohol has always been made worse by those who wish to unduly restrict its use by consenting adults. The best option is simply to zone districts for nightclubs and leave them alone. It works just fine in lots of other countries, so why are our citizens so much less trustworthy?

Posted by: dj333 | December 10, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The Downtown Cluster of Congregations needs an editor.

Posted by: jbindc | December 10, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The considerable majority of these church members actually live in Maryland.

So perhaps they should be more worried about what's happening where the actually live.

I simply don't understand the political power these folks have. They don't live in DC and most of the people that live around the churches are a bit tired of their double-parking and constant meddling.

Posted by: HillMan | December 10, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I live near Adams Morgan and I'll be d*mned if some church lady or random Congresspeople from the other side of the country try to tell me what I can do in my own neighborhood. It's bad enough they influence actual, important social policy in DC--they want to influence how late some bars are open for one lone long weekend, too?

If the MPD really can't handle the crowds, the DC government can work with Maryland and Virginia to get some of their cops on the street. Heck, call in some Delaware cops, if we need to--I'm sure some of them would like to be here to see their boy get sworn in as VP. If our firefighters can cross state lines to help out in other jurisdictions, can't other people's cops cross state lines to help out here, especially considering people from all over the country will be coming down for the event? It's not rocket science. We can keep the city safe for a weekend without limiting the city's ability to cash in.

Posted by: dkp01 | December 10, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Bars and Nightclubs in DC already close at 3:00 AM on the weekends. Is allowing them to stay open for only 2 more hours for a 4 day period really going to cause so much trouble? Of course not! Doesn't the church have more important issues to address, such as stopping its priests from molesting little boys?

Posted by: mrbookman_2000 | December 10, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

If a third grader has better judgement,then maybe we should elect 3rd graders vs. the people we keep electing right? Quality of life concerns? OK, well please vigorously and consistently attack other concerns such as DC homelessness and poverty, illiteracy, cleanliness, day-to-day crime,gang crime,etc...WE create our reality. Focus more energy on good things so good things will happen and STOP raining on the peoples parade. Besides all of us as email elite on here know we can always rent out our places for absurd amounts of money and go take a trip :-)

Posted by: beowulf7 | December 10, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Why not keep the churches open all night as well on inauguration day as well? Give those who might want to drink an option.

Posted by: c_Jey@yahoo.com | December 10, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Has Fenty gone crazy? Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of extra people in the city, and he's going to let them drink around the clock for five days?

Posted by: mradams | December 10, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with DJ333. My only problem with the new law is that it doesn't include Thursday and Friday night. I would guess you will have far more problems on those nights with everyone dumping out onto the street at the same time than Sat-Tues with the expanded hours. Time will tell and then the city should make changes to the existing laws. This city has a huge international population that is used to going and staying out far later. We should be able to serve that population base.

Posted by: DCTT | December 10, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned that there would be other police presence in the city during the inaugural events. Those officers will NOT be policing the city at large, but rather assisting with events surrounding the inauguration. Trust that you won't find any of them up Georgia Avenue, or in Adams Morgan. As a resident of DC, I understand on the one hand that this an opportunity for the city to make a great deal of money -- which is sorely needed in this difficult economy. However, at what cost? With 5 million extra people in the city, and alcohol available all night long -- well let me just say, I believe it's a bad mix. And I'm no church lady -- but I do have common sense, which is more than I can say for our mayor in this particular instance.

Posted by: Tootsumi | December 10, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"The letter, signed by Executive Director Terrance Lynch, echoed the concerns of Feinstein and Bennett that the later hours would tax police officers, potentially compromising their ability to focus on inaugural security. But the church leaders went further, citing possible problems in neighborhoods near the entertainment districts."

These are the same blowhards that gave us prohibition. Moralizing morons, that's all. Do they learn NOTHING? What do they think is going to happen when those thousands of people who want to party don't find bars open? Oh I'm sure they'll go to sleep. Right. Sure.

Posted by: fake1 | December 10, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Whoever wrote the headline as it currently appears on the web page - "Church Leaders Join Bar Fight" - should get a raise for such a delightful double entendre.

Posted by: officermancuso | December 10, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Set aside the church folk for a moment, weather in DC in January, might be nice, can be bitter cold. Back in 1985 the out door part of RWR swearing in was moved INDOORS. Frostbite was lookin' to be a real problem. Still have my tickets to that one.
There is a chance the weather will be cold. It has been known for a long time, and said often, that it will be a cold day before someone like BHO would get into office. That day is near and the number of folks plannin on just showing up WITHOUT TICKETS will need a bar to warm up in. After all Washington DC can be a cold place to the unwelcome visitors. Pay to play folks, Just like Chicago

Posted by: commboss | December 10, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I am SO unbelievably tired of churches' opinions driving secular law in this country. Does separation of church and state mean nothing? Their opinion has been duly noted. Why does religious opposition to adults enjoying themselves warrant anyone's serious consideration? Religious people think their beliefs ought to control the entire world's conduct. It's really time for nineteenth-century thinking to return to the past where it belongs. If you don't like it, stay home.

Posted by: cupgoddess | December 10, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

We have a clause in our Constitution that creates a separation between the church and the state. This is a double edge sword. The church needs to learn to mind their own business.

Posted by: askgees | December 10, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, let me add my voice to the "chorus" of WTF do they have to say and why do they think they have the right to say it: they all live in Maryland.

Posted by: brandonesque | December 10, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company