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
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.”
PRESS RELEASE from JCCIC
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
“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
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.”