How Many Don'ts Does It Take To Ruin A Friday Night?
Restaurants and bars pour big money into their images--the logo on the sign outside, the look inside, the acoustics. Then along comes the government to order nightspots to clutter up their showcase entryways with signs announcing that the establishment doesn't serve anyone under 21, that pregnant women shouldn't drink, that the business doesn't discriminate and that people shouldn't smoke.
Now, the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control board wants to add one more sign to the flurry of announcements greeting folks headed out for a good time: Board member Mital Gandhi has proposed that all eateries and bars licensed in the city be required to post a sign saying "Please do not drink and drive. Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence is illegal in the District of Columbia."
To Andrew Kline, who represents the city's restaurant association, enough is enough: "You get to the point where there are so many signs--there is something called 'message clutter.'" Kline will argue against the new sign when the ABC board holds a hearing on the proposal on Wednesday.
Kline says city agencies have gotten so sign-happy that many of his clients now have to find a place for five signs--the three listed above, plus one that says how many people can fit in the place, and another big red one that alerts the community whenever a liquor license is up for renewal.
Kline says he asked city officials If they had any evidence that a simple reminder not to drink and drive has any effect on customers' behavior. "They said, well, if a single life is saved, it's worth doing,' which I guess means the answer is No, they haven't done any research," Kline says.
Indeed, Gandhi does believe, as he puts it, "that if one person sees the sign and stops and thinks 'maybe I shouldn't drink and drive,' we will have succeeded." And no, the proposal is not based on any research showing the effectiveness of such a sign. Gandhi says he knows of no other jurisdiction that requires such a sign. But some D.C. bars already voluntarily post just such a reminder. At Cafe Citron near Dupont Circle, security director Marlon Lucero says a no-drinking and driving sign "is just a nice way to let people know that that's not right."
Gandhi is frank about the limited impact such signs might have. "Do we think this is going to stop drinking and driving? No," he says. "It is a marketing technique and we felt it was a win-win situation. No one wants people to drink and drive."
Interestingly, Gandhi agrees with the restaurant lobby that there is such a thing as sign clutter and message fatigue. "If we had 10 signs, I'd agree with the restaurant association," the board member says. "Even if we had five signs, I'd agree. But two or three signs are not a problem."
This, dear reader, gets us into an area I never thought I'd ever need to discuss: Defining a sign. As we've seen above, the city does indeed require bars and restaurants to post at least five, um, notices. But whereas Kline calls them all signs, Gandhi says there's a huge difference between signs and--quoting now--"placards."
"Placards are a totally different story," Gandhi says. "Apples and oranges." And the big red thing that announces that a particular business's liquor license is coming up for renewal is a placard, not a sign.
This is why some of us never even considered going into government or politics.
The District's acting chief of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, Fred Moosally, says "the agency is mindful of making sure that licensees are not required to post too many signs. However, we do not believe that requiring all three signs [--the under-21 and pregnant women warnings, and the proposed drinking and driving one--] to be posted is excessive in light of the importance of these issues."
In any event, Gandhi says lots of bar owners like the idea of official reminders that drinking and driving is a really bad idea, and the ABC board will hear from them next week.
But Kline isn't giving up easily on this one. He plans to come to the hearing armed with a few proposed signs of his own. Why not require every nightspot also to post signs saying "People should pay their child support," and "Don't do drugs," and the especially helpful "Don't stab or shoot residents of the District of Columbia--Homicide is a crime."
What other signs should the D.C. government mandate for the fronts of your favorite nightspots?
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Lindemann777 | May 1, 2009 8:59 AM
Posted by: VTDuffman | May 1, 2009 9:47 AM
Posted by: Wallenstein | May 1, 2009 10:04 AM
Posted by: sheepherder | May 1, 2009 10:43 AM
Posted by: dr_klahn | May 1, 2009 10:51 AM
Posted by: sacomment | May 1, 2009 10:54 AM
Posted by: chrisscu | May 1, 2009 11:42 AM
Posted by: Wallenstein | May 1, 2009 11:50 AM
Posted by: chrisscu | May 1, 2009 11:54 AM
Posted by: VTDuffman | May 1, 2009 3:15 PM
Posted by: VTDuffman | May 1, 2009 3:41 PM
Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 1, 2009 4:27 PM
Posted by: bs2004 | May 5, 2009 10:34 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.