- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

The D.C. Council's Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is scheduled this week to markup Bill 13-449. This is important legislation because, if left as is and it is hoped this bill is not the city's liquor laws would change substantially.

Officially called D.C. Code Title 25 Enactment and Related Amendments Act of 2000, Bill 13-449 would change practically everything regarding the ebb and flow of your favorite beverages including whether you can enjoy them at a new nudie bar. If any of this sounds familiar, it is not because you've had too much to drink.

The D.C. Council overhauled ABC laws just six short years ago. One legacy of the 1994 action is the citywide ban on new nude-dancing bars. The legislation currently under consideration, which includes a proposal to lift that citywide ban, is an omnibus bill, trying to address far too many issues. In doing so, it essentially fails to give proper due to both quality-of-life issues and the serious questions raised by the business community.

For example, the legislation proposes giving police standing to file protests against any establishment that serves or sells to underage drinkers, which could then factor in a licensee's chance at renewal time. Another provision would use the local newspapers and the Internet to notify the public about license applications as well as license renewals. Such provisions are appealing.

The legislation, which had five co-sponsors when introduced last year, has detractors, and with good reason. The bill proposes, among other things, restricting the hours of operation for establishments that hold Class A and B licenses, such as liquor stores and convenience stores, and setting quotas on certain classes of licenses. It also proposes prohibiting retailers from selling beverages on tabs or in-house credit, and it proposes raising permit fees on liquor stores and restaurants that buy wine from outside the District and forcing wholesalers to obtain a $250 non-resident supplier license to sell to D.C. establishments; in other words, it would create a new tax. Additionally, the legislation introduced by Council member Sharon Ambrose would force D.C. businesses to buy solely from the wine's "primary American source."

Concerned business leaders who support the economic renaissance under way in the District believe some of those legislative proposals would undermine consumer choice and price competition in a private industry. They are probably correct, and the Council should consider their concerns when marking up Bill 13-449.

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