- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

A Northwest church is opposing legislation that would allow establishments to serve liquor within 400 feet of schools.

The legislation, titled the “On Premises Retailer’s License Act of 2006,” would have a significant impact on new charter schools and new liquor-serving businesses within proximity of each other.

“Studies and our experience have shown that the increase in the number of liquor-serving establishments is associated with increases in violence and criminal activity,” said Bishop C.L. Long, pastor of Scripture Cathedral in the 800 block of O Street Northwest. “The location of the liquor-serving licenses near schools will also increase noise, traffic, congestion and pedestrian hazards.”

Bishop Long yesterday testified against the legislation during a hearing by the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which is led by D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

City law currently bars the D.C. Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration from issuing liquor licenses to an establishment whose property line is within 400 feet of a school’s property line.

A grandfather clause exempts new liquor-serving businesses of the same type as establishments that already are open within 400 feet of a school.

The liquor license restrictions, last updated by the council in 2004, aim to protect children from underage drinking, officials said.

Liquor board officials yesterday said the new legislation would help address growing concerns that charter schools, which regularly open in historically nonresidential areas where restaurants and bars often seek to operate, will push out businesses.

Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, proposed the legislation to address a liquor-license battle between several churches in the Shaw area and two restaurants — Vegetate, a vegetarian lounge, and Queen of Sheba, which offers Ethiopian cuisine.

The churches said the restaurants are located too near Seaton Elementary School to legally be given liquor licenses, and the liquor board agreed.

Jennifer Graham Redd, co-owner of Vegetate, said the current 400-foot restrictions are unfair. She said the proposed law would give her a chance to get her liquor license.

“We all want to protect children,” Mrs. Redd said. “I think the original spirit of the law is good, but what I do think is the way it works right now is ridiculous.”

Liquor board officials said more than 16,000 liquor licenses are distributed in the District.

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