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.

— May 3, 2012