- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

A proposal to ban cover charges and limit the size of dance floors to 100 square feet at bars in the District was all but killed by the D.C. Council yesterday, with several members saying they would not support it if it came up for a vote.
Council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, who heads the council's Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said the proposal "will not move forward."
Mrs. Ambrose repeated her statement several times to the dozens of angry musicians, bar owners and music fans who crowded into a hearing before the committee to criticize the proposal.
James Graham, co-owner of DJ Hut, a music store on P Street in Northwest, said if the proposal became a law, many local bars and restaurants would no longer be able to afford to pay for live entertainment.
"If these places that hire DJs suddenly can't afford to hire them anymore, then the DJs won't shop at my store anymore," Mr. Graham said. "This bill would affect not just bar owners, but a plethora of other businesses in the city. I just don't think it's rational."
Banning cover charges and limiting dance space would be equivalent to banning live music at bars, said Mike Woods, a Capitol Hill resident and guitarist who has performed at bars in the District.
"Bars and restaurants have always been where the music is in this town," Mr. Woods said. "It's not a sudden new trend, why do we need a new law to crack down on it?"
The D.C. Official Code Restaurant Definition Amendment Act proposes that bars and restaurants be allowed to "offer entertainment but shall not charge admission or a cover charge to guests." The bill says that "the size of the dance floor in a restaurant shall not exceed 100 square feet or 10 percent of the restaurant, whichever is smaller ."
Council member Jack Evans, who drafted the bill, admitted yesterday that even he doesn't believe it is a reasonable solution to what has become a major problem in some D.C. neighborhoods: late night noise and drunkenness spilling out of bars and restaurants and into residential streets.
"This bill would have to be changed before going forward at all," Mr. Evans said. His statements came after the D.C. Alcohol Control Board requested that the council take no action on the bill.
Chairman Roderic L. Woodson said the board will present recommendations within the next few weeks on the most economically fair ways to bring reform to ordinances on bars and restaurants. How the city gauges what sort of new ordinances to put in place "varies from neighborhood to neighborhood," Mr. Woodson said.
While no one appeared at the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee's hearing to support the legislation yesterday, members of Mr. Evans' staff said that about 75 residents who support it mostly from the Logan Circle neighborhood in Northwest showed up at a similar hearing in March.
Several council members said they would oppose Mr. Evans' bill, but they also agreed that the situation surrounding bar and restaurant licenses is in dire need of reform. Many restaurants are in violation of a city law requiring that at least 45 percent of their profits come from food sales.
The city has had difficulty enforcing the law, said council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. "We need to see whether there's a new license that may need to be created."
Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, called the "45 percent rule" a joke. "We can't enforce it," he said.
Mr. Mendelson, Mr. Fenty and council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said they are eager to see what recommendations are brought forward by the ABC board.


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