Extending D.C. bars’ curfew at risk of being grounded

Mark Segraves, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – D.C. Mayor Vince Gray’s desire to extend hours for bars in the District has hit a roadblock.

The D.C. Council committee that oversees the District’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration voted 3 to 2 against extending the times bars and nightclubs can serve alcohol.

The committee, chaired by Councilmember Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, voted against a proposal by Gray to allow bars to stay open until 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m on weekends.

The proposal was part of Gray’s budget and was intended to raise $3.2 million a year in additional revenue for the city. Graham has proposed adding a new 6 cents per drink tax on bar sales as a way to make the money. Gray dismissed that idea, reiterating his pledge of “no new taxes.”

However, the mayor left open the possibility that he would approve the additional tax if his extended hours proposal was defeated.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Gray told reporters just hours before Graham’s committee struck down the idea.

The extended hours proposal is not completely dead, as the council still needs to find another source of revenue to make up for the $3.2 million. The 6-cent tax proposal is just an idea now. If it is introduced as legislation, it would have to be approved by the Committee on Finance and Revenue.

The entire council will vote on the budget later this month, and it’s possible the extended hours for bars could resurface then.

There was some good news for Gray’s other proposals on increasing revenue through alcohol sales. The committee gave a thumbs up to allowing beer and wine stores to start selling at 7 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. as is currently permitted, and preliminary approval was also given to extended bar hours for the week of the presidential inauguration.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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