Freezing weather, late arrivals and a lack of participation appeared to dampen the opening night of longer alcohol hours in the District early Saturday morning, leaving bar stools open and glasses full for those who did brave the elements.
“We haven’t see a huge jump in the number of people here,” said Sheldon Scott, general manager of the U Street corridor bar Marvin, in Northwest. “It’s like a regular Friday night, though there are a bunch of new faces.”
The D.C. Council last month gave permission for registered bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. and serve food 24 hours a day during inauguration week, beginning early Saturday morning and running through early Wednesday morning.
More than 280 establishments signed up to participate on various days, with many hoping to capitalize on the 1 million or more people expected to be in town for the celebration of President-elect Barack Obama‘s inauguration.
“This is gonna be a very long weekend,” Mr. Scott said. “I can’t think of anything that compares to this.”
Normal last call in the District is 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. Nightclubs were required to pay a fee of $250 per day and restaurants and bars were required to pay $100 a day to extend their hours. The city collected $132,000 in revenue as a result of the registration process.
But while some feared longer alcohol hours would lead to legions of inebriated revelers, city officials said Friday night turned out all right, possibly because of freezing weather and the fact that the expected crowds are only beginning to trickle in to the city.
“I think it was fairly cold, and I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people who are going to be coming into town ” Saturday, said Fred Moosally, interim director of the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.
Mr. Moosally’s agency, which has investigators assigned to monitor participating businesses until 5 a.m., issued one citation to an establishment for serving alcohol at 4:30 a.m. The issue will be forwarded to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for “appropriate enforcement action,” Mr. Moosally said.
To help report problems during the longer hours, city officials said citizens can call 311 after normal business hours for nonemergency matters. Their calls will be routed to an ABRA hot line maintained by a supervisory investigator.
Mr. Moosally said the hotline received two calls that were not substantiated. Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Kenneth Bryson also reported a quiet night.
“I don’t think we had anything major. We’ll certainly take that,” he said. “We’ve got the rest of the weekend to go, and of course the whole size of the crowd isn’t in there yet.”
The slow night also could be attributed to other factors such as some participating establishments opting not to extend their hours just yet, while others were barred from doing so.
“Nobody was in town yet,” said Carol Masterson, a manager at the Capitol Hill bar Hawk ‘n’ Dove, explaining why there wasn’t a later last call Saturday morning. Her business is extending its hours Saturday night, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, she said.
Gavin Coleman, general manager of the Irish pub The Dubliner, also on Capitol Hill, said he didn’t realize he could have extended his hours Saturday morning. But while his bar is planning to participate in the days ahead, it didn’t on Saturday.
“My hours are already until 3 in the morning, so paying the hundred dollars for an extra hour, I didn’t see the necessity for it,” Mr. Coleman said.
Chris Anderson, a manager at The Blaguard on 18th Street in Adams Morgan, said his bar - along with others in the notorious nightlife district - would not be staying open late because a local neighborhood association wouldn’t grant permission for them to do so.
Still, Mr. Anderson, originally from Kentucky, predicted an Obama-related boon for area establishments.
“I think this is going to be a very good weekend for the bars and restaurants around here,” he said.