D.C. DUI Watch: Last Call for Bars’ Bid for Longer Hours
Council members say they are trying to curb D.C. DUIs by rejecting a bid from bar owners to allow them to stay open an extra hour on the weekends.
Washington D.C. DUI attorneys had been closely watching the debate, following a proposal by Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray. His reasoning was the help boost the District’s nightlife scene, which would simultaneously help raise millions of dollars annually that could be used to help keep certain social service programs alive.
The proposal would have allowed bars to stay open from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Those who (successfully) argued against the measure would result in an increase in Washington DUIs, as well as problems for police and residents who already complain about the large crowds of intoxicated youth in a relatively small, concentrated area. Additionally, they felt such a move would halt the influx of older residents, who for the last several years have been trickling in to make the District their retirement destination.
However, business and restaurant owners supported the mayor’s proposal, saying that only a handful of area bars would take advantage of the new hours. What that would mean is that not everyone would be spilling out onto the street at the exact same time. Plus, tourism and the hospitality industry, they said, are what sustains the local economy. A spokesman for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the district hasn’t been a 9 to 5 town for years. Evolving into more of a 24-hour city – like New York – is only going to help hasten the economic recovery.
In voicing a vigorous opposition, one council member worried how people would get home, considering the metro stops its operations at 3 a.m. on weekends. That, he worried, could lead to an uptick in Washington D.C. DUIs.
Gray had said that the longer hours would have been a creative way to address the district’s massive budget shortfall. The idea was that by extending alcohol service by another hour throughout the district, and then simultaneously impose a 6-cents per drink increase in the alcohol tax, the district could make more than $3 million next year.
However, the measure was ultimately voted down 3 to – save for two parts.
One is that certain liquor stores will now be allowed to open at 7 a.m., rather than 9 a.m., and bars will be allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. on just one night every four years: The presidential inauguration.
Council members, however, are still considering the increase in taxes on alcohol, and the entire measure could come up again before the end of the month, if council members don’t figure out another way to come up with the rest of their multi-million dollar budget shortfall.