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DDOT, ABRA to Increase Inspections of Sidewalk Cafes

The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), Alcoholic Beverage Administration (ABRA), Metropolitan Police Department, D.C. Fire and Emergency Services and the D.C. Department of Public Works have created a Taskforce to increase the oversight and inspection of sidewalk cafes in the city.

With over 600 sidewalk cafes in the region, the Taskforce will be visiting all sidewalk cafes three times between April and October 2012.  The purpose of the visits is threefold:  to educate restaurateurs on rules and regulations for operating a sidewalk café, to assist operators who are not currently compliant in becoming compliant with regulations, and to enforce regulations.

Establishments with sidewalk cafes should, at a minimum, ensure the following:

  • Public Space Permit annual fee is paid (the fee is assessed through property taxes);
  • Certificate of Use annual fee is paid;
  • Sidewalk café floor plan is consistent with the plans submitted and approved by DDOT Public Space Committee  (Approved floor plan must be produced and available for inspector’s review); and
  • Sidewalk café floor plan abides by all fire and safety codes.

The Taskforce will also be visiting Valet Parking locations to ensure compliance with D.C. regulations.  For more information on obtaining and maintaining a public space permit for a sidewalk café, please contact our offices.

D.C. Council Approves Proposal to Extend Alcohol Service Hours on 19 Holiday Dates

The D.C. Council approved Council Bill 19-743, the “Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Support Act of 2012,” which includes a provision allowing for an one-hour extension in the maximum allowable alcohol service period at the city’s restaurants, bars and hotels.

The council  revised Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s proposed $9.4 billion budget for the next fiscal year on Tuesday, including changing the Mayor’s proposal to extend alcohol service  hours by one hour, to 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends.  It did not eliminate the Mayor’s plan, as the D.C. Human Services Committee had voted earlier this month, but limited  extended hours  to apply only on nights before all District and federal holidays.  Alcohol sales would also be extended on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays, as well as New Year’s Eve and July 4 if the holidays fall on weekends.

This extension of hours would likely not apply to restaurant and bars who have voluntary agreements limiting their hours of service.

The council is scheduled to give final approval of the amended budget on June 5th.  The legislation, if approved, would go into effect on October 1.

D.C. Council Committee Rejects Extended Bar Hours; Votes to Increase Alcohol Tax

The D.C. Human Services Committee voted 3-2 to strip from the 2013 fiscal budget the Mayor’s proposal to extend alcohol sales to 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends.  Instead, the committee proposed increasing the sales tax on alcoholic beverages above the current level of 10 percent.  This alcohol excise tax, paid by wholesalers and increasing product costs for both on-premise venues and retailers alike, would result in a price increase for both businesses and consumer alike.

As reported in our April 18th post, many neighborhood groups organized against extending bar hours, citing the potential for increased late-night noise, crime, and parking issues.  Entrepreneurs endorsed the proposal as a way to boost the city’s reputation as a world-class hospitality destination..

Lynne Breaux, president of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), issued a press release criticizing the council members for increasing the tax burden on local small businesses.

“Restaurants and bars are the first businesses to be tapped to help create a sense of community in areas of new development or to revitalize existing neighborhoods – and are the first businesses to be targeted for taxes, fees and excessive regulatory oversight,” said Breaux.

If the alcohol tax increase is defeated, several council members told the Washington Post that the proposed extension of bar hours could resurface as members try to balance the budget.

“Certainly, we could do it on a temporary basis and see what the ramifications are,” said council member David A. Catania (I-At Large). “If some of the negative consequences come to fruition, we could revisit.”

The committee did, however, unanimously approved two of Gray’s alcohol proposals, including allowing bars to serve until 4 a.m. during the week of the presidential inauguration. The committee also agreed to allow Class A and Class B carryout liquor stores to open at 7 a.m. instead of 9 a.m., except on Sundays.

The committee did not vote on a proposal that would allow liquor stores to open on Sundays.