On Tuesday night, Ward 1 Councilmember and Chairman of the Human Services Committee, Jim Graham, heard six-hours of testimony from District residents and the hospitality and business community members about D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposal to extend bar hours in order to raise $5 million in new revenue.
The witness list, available here, included 48 individuals as well as Fred Moosally, Director of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).
Entrepreneurs endorsed Mayor Gray’s proposal and offered support to the idea that extended sales hours will increase revenue as well as boost the city’s reputation as a world-class hospitality destination. Business owners pointed out that many establishments have Voluntary Agreements, which limit their operating hours. Owners stated that this type of staggered closings, some bars closing earlier while other close later, would alleviate any concerns of excessive noise from patrons leaving the establishment at later hours.
In his testimony, Mr. Moosally confirmed that the extended hours would not apply to 267 bars, nightclubs and restaurants that have existing Voluntary Agreements with their neighbors.
Council member Graham appeared steadfast in his opposition to longer sale hours, particularly in light of the number of witnesses at the hearing from Adams Morgan and Kaloroma, neighborhoods located in the council member’s own ward, who opposed the extension of hours. Neighborhood opponents argued that the longer hour would exacerbate existing noise and parking issues and create public safety concerns such as drunk driving. Some opponents said they could support it if the extended hours were limited to downtown or in non-residential areas, however, Graham stated that would place some establishments at a competitive disadvantage against others who could close later.
Despite his disapproval of the Mayor’s proposal, if it does not pass, Graham would be forced to raise the $5 million in new revenue or make spending cuts to the city’s fiscal 2013 budget to replace the projected revenue expected from this proposal.
According to the Washington Post, Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown may have the final say on whether the fiscal year 2013 budget can remain balanced without Gray’s proposal. At a news conference Tuesday, Brown said he remains undecided on the proposal but understands community opposition.
To watch the entire six-hour hearing, click here.