Ed. note:  On Dec. 2, 2008 the D.C. City Council passed legislation by Councilman Jim Graham permitting bars and restaurants to sell alcohol until 5 a.m. during inauguration week.  Senators expressed concern in a Dec. 10 letter.  The City Council voted on Dec. 16 to change the time from 5 a.m. to 4 a.m., and Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill.

PRESS RELEASE from Office of Mayor Adrian Fenty

December 19, 2008

Fenty Administration Upholds Voluntary Agreements for Nightlife Establishments During the Inauguration

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced today that he has signed the Inaugural Celebration Extension of Hours Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2008, passed by the DC Council on December 16, 2008. The bill authorizes establishments with on-premises retailer’s licenses to sell or serve alcoholic beverages until 4 am and to operate 24 hours a day. These establishments must pre-register with Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in order to serve alcoholic beverages until 4 am during the five-day period from January 17, 2009 through January 21, 2009. On-premises retailers, which are establishments that serve alcoholic beverages that are consumed on site include: restaurants, taverns, hotels, multi-purpose facilities and nightclubs.

The bill does not apply to retailers that only sell alcoholic beverages for consumption elsewhere such as grocery stores and liquor stores. These retailers will continue their current operating hours and practices.  

The bill will not affect the enforceability of contractual voluntary agreements which many on-premises retailers have entered into with the community and which have been endorsed by the Board. Voluntary agreements, which have long been recognized by District law, set forth the terms and conditions under which a licensee is permitted to operate, including the hours of permitted sale of alcohol. Almost all such voluntary agreements preclude the sale of alcohol after 2 am on weekdays and 3 am on weekends.

Currently, there are 345 on-premises retailers who have entered into voluntary agreements in the District: 233 restaurants, 72 taverns, 25 nightclubs, nine multipurpose facilities and six hotels.

“It is important to honor the agreements that residents in the District have made with on-premises establishments,” said Mayor Fenty. “I commend the work of the Attorney General and the ABRA board for working together to ensure that the best interests of the community are upheld.”


For Immediate Release
December 10, 2008
Senators Feinstein and Bennett Urge DC Government To Reverse Emergency Alcohol Law

WASHINGTON, DC—Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), and Senator Bob Bennett, Member of the JCCIC and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, today urged the Mayor and City Council of Washington, DC to reverse the emergency legislation passed last week to allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol until 5 am during the week of the inauguration. “We have reached out to Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray because of our grave concerns about the unintended consequences of this legislation,” said Senator Feinstein. “What is clearly meant as a boon to local businesses may instead create tremendous problems for already overwhelmed law enforcement agencies.”

“Security needs to be the number one priority during the Inaugural ceremonies and extending the sale of alcohol until 5 a.m. in D.C. will only divert law enforcement resources away from their primary focus on security measures and crowd safety,” said Senator Bennett.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Gray:

We are writing today to urge that City Council and the Mayor reverse emergency legislation approved by the Council last week that permits nightclubs, bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages until 5 a.m. for four nights during the Inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President.

With projections as high as 4 million people planning to visit the city during this time period, we are deeply concerned that the plan approved by the City Council could seriously strain law enforcement resources that need to be focused on the large crowds and security requirements of the Inaugural and its impact on the City.

There is great cause for celebration at this historic event.  But we believe that the benefits of this emergency legislation, passed with little public notice, are far outweighed by its possible consequences.

We understand the pressures you face from the different constituencies in your city.  But we also know the importance of standing firm to ensure the safety of residents, workers and visitors who will be in Washington, D.C., participating in this historic event.”

Robert F. Bennett                                                                                    Dianne Feinstein