Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two U.S senators have called on the D.C. Council to reverse its move to extend last call during inauguration week, but at least one council member says the senators should mind their own business.

“This is a local issue and is not a matter for the United States Senate,” said council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

The council approved emergency legislation last week to allow bars and night clubs to serve alcohol until 5 a.m each day from Saturday, Jan. 17, to Tuesday, Jan. 20, the day of President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in.

Bars currently can serve drinks until 3 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m during the week. The legislation also lets the establishments serve food all day for the period.

The council justified its decision by saying extending the hours would encourage celebrations that are safely indoors.

Sens. Diane Feinstein, California Democrat, and Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, sent a letter Tuesday to council Chairman Vincent C. Gray and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, both Democrats, urging the council to reverse its decision.

The senators said the benefits to extending last call “are far outweighed by the possible consequences.” They said extending bar hours would divert law enforcement resources away from their primary focus on security.

Officer Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C police union, said he was glad the senators shared their input and said the initiative to extend last call was not “thought through carefully” by the council.

“If it takes a suggestion from United States senators or anybody else to make sure that we keep everybody safe, then that’s what it takes,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that our own leaders can’t make those type of adult, professional decisions themselves.”

Mr. Graham said he appreciated the Senate’s concern, but that added it was not the Senate’s concern.

“We’ll review their reasoning and we certainly appreciate their point of view, but this is a local matter,” he said.

Mr. Gray and Mr. Fenty could not immediately be reached for comment.

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