- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2021

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to allow people to legally sip alcoholic beverages outdoors in certain areas of the city.

The mayor’s proposed Commercial Lifestyle Center License would allow patrons to consume spirits purchased from and within select, mixed-use commercial developments located on private property.

Eligible areas also must be controlled by a commercial owners’ association such as The Wharf, which includes restaurants, retailers, and residences along the Potomac River in Ward 6.

The Wharf Community Association believes it is “well-positioned to manage this as a model for the District.”

“We are excited to learn more about this proposed initiative as it would enhance the type of dining experiences our businesses would be able to provide to guests while demonstrating the Bowser administration’s genuine commitment to keeping our restaurants open and competitive,” a spokesperson for the association said in an email.

However, Tammy Vodinh, general manager of the Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on 14th Street NW, noted that her restaurant is one many outside the mixed development area, saying there is a possibility the license could draw potential customers away.

Still, Ms. Vodinh said that local businesses are ailing amid the pandemic and the license will “help, but ultimately it’s a Band-Aid.”

Licensed premises’ may include pedestrian-friendly “plazas, seating areas, concourses, walkways and other such thoroughfares,” with the exception of parking lots.

The city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would be tasked with determining the imbibing boundaries, which must be marked with signage and have “adequate security” on site “to ensure compliance.”

Under current D.C. Municipal Regulation, it is a secondary tier violation for a licensed business “to knowingly allow a patron to exit the licensed establishment with an alcoholic beverage in an open container.” Offense citations can range between $250 to $1,000, depending on the number of violations and when they were committed.

Moreover, anyone caught drinking alcohol in public can be charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable with a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Association (ABRA) and the Metropolitan Police Department are tasked with enforcing open container laws. Both agencies declined to comment Tuesday on the proposed legislation.

Only beverages purchased from a business that is a tenant of the licensee would be permitted, and the drinks must be poured into plastic or nonglass containers labeled with a logo identifying the business.

The proposed license would cost between $750 to $1,000 each year, and the money would go toward ABRA’s Special-Purpose Revenue Fund.

Virginia has been offering a similar license for years, which has been adopted in parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties.

Miss Bowser’s plan is among proposed changes outlined in her 40-page “Reopen Washington, D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2021” that she filed Monday with the D.C. Council.

“As we continue to focus on boosting the District’s economy, this legislation will move us in the right direction by removing hurdles for businesses and providing new ways to bring in revenue,” the mayor said Monday in a statement.

The legislation also seeks to modify the definition of spirits by increasing the required alcohol volume from 15% to 21%, to establish a third-party alcohol delivery license and to allow an unlimited number of taverns in the Georgetown Historic District — which is currently capped at six.

Moreover, the mayor hopes to extend a number of programs, like streateries, which have been established as part of the city’s emergency response to the pandemic and to change licensed establishment operational requirements and administrative procedures.

The Washington Times has reached out to council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat, and an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member in Ward 6 for comment.

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