- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UPDATED:

Those looking to party hard on Inauguration Day in the District will have to curb their enthusiasm — but just a bit.

The D.C. Council on Tuesday curtailed their extension of bar and restaurant hours during the week of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, moving last call from 5 a.m. to 4 a.m. and requiring establishments wishing to participate in the longer hours to pay a fee and notify city officials.

“This modifies it just a little bit,” said Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, who introduced the changes along with Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat. “You had people running around believing we had opened the streets and people were going to be running around selling off of vending carts.”

The council also approved emergency legislation increasing parking meter fees in the city.



The council earlier this month extended last call for alcohol service in the city to 5 a.m. and allowed bars and restaurants to serve food all night.

Along with the revised last call, the changes approved by the council Tuesday in a 9-4 vote after vigorous debate include requiring nightclubs to pay $250 and restaurants and bars to pay $100 to participate in the extended hours.

Establishments must notify the city’s Alcoholic and Beverage Control Board and the Metropolitan Police Department of their intent to participate by Jan. 7 and nightclubs must submit a safety plan. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier also can revoke an establishment’s participation if it presents a danger to the public.

Council members Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat; Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat; Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat; and Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, voted against the bill. They opposed the measure two weeks ago as well.

“I hope that maybe you all will regroup between now and Jan. 6 and decide that we don’t need to add to the chaos,” said Mrs. Schwartz, who was defeated in her re-election bid this year and was participating in her final legislative session.

The new hours will be in effect Jan. 17 to 21. Bars currently can serve drinks until 3 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m. during the week.

Even some in the industry don’t favor the extended hours.

“I think it just promotes drunkenness, and there’s really no reason for people to stay open till 5 a.m.,” said Dan Gardner, general manager of Capitol Lounge on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast. “The only people you’re going to have to deal with until 5 a.m. are drunk people.”

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

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Senate appropriations financial services and general government subcommittee — which oversees the D.C. budget — also sent a letter to Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray on Tuesday saying the concerns that the initial bill “could invite excessive drinking, strain law enforcement resources, and increase the risk of harfmful alcohol-related incidents” are legitimate.

The parking bill introduced by Mr. Graham increases meter rates in areas he said are almost entirely downtown from $1 to $2 per hour. In many other areas of the city where rates are 50 cents or less, Mr. Graham said rates would increase by 25 cents.

The council member said the increases will bring the District $45 million in additional revenue from fiscal 2009 to 2012.

The funds will be designated for programs serving low-income city residents such as the Housing Purchase Assistance Program and the Local Rent Supplement Program. Mr. Mendelson and Ms. Bowser were the lone dissenters.

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