Alcohol Sanity Coalition DC
For Release: November 14, 2014 Contact: Abigail Nichols, 202/331-9757
Council to Vote on “Anything Goes” Alcohol Bill that Muzzles Residents
DC residents are mobilizing, but a business-backed bill may roll through the District Council before Councilmembers learn how badly it weakens alcohol regulation to hurt residents.
changes are a step backward in alcohol regulation. A cursory look at the hearings shows that
residents hate this bill. Individuals,
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, citizen/civic associations are weighing in
against this bill. The DC Federation of
Citizens Associations with member organizations all over the District passed a resolution against it – that is just
one indication of how unpopular this is as residents learn what is proposed.” said Abigail Nichols, founder of
the new group, Alcohol Sanity Coalition DC.
Nichols continued, “Of course, we welcome increased revenue, but protections for residents should be strengthened in tandem and we look to the Council to do so. Residents aim for a balance between efficiency and fairness to business on the one hand, and protection of residential peace, order, and quiet on the other. This bill does not achieve that balance.”
This is a cynical bill. This bill preserves the structure of the current law that permits maximum, free-wheeling alcohol sales (on-premises alcohol service on premises and on outdoor patios and roof-tops as late as 4 a.m.) except where in certain times and places it would not be “appropriate” because of damage to peace, order, and quiet or other harm. Defining “appropriateness” depends on residents to “protest,” indicating that limits are needed. However, the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment of 2012 continues ten years of piecemeal changes that make it increasingly difficult for the residents to prevent “anything goes” in DC alcohol.
Slow down!!! Alcohol consumption in the District has been increasing much faster than the population has been increasing. Ramrodding through changes that weaken controls is ill-conceived and an insult to the residents of the District who have had little time to discover and respond to this bill. The bill was introduced June 26, a hearing with little notice occurred July 12, a second hearing - again with little notice - was held October 15 after a summer recess for the Council and many community organizations, the bill was marked up November 8. Now the full Council will vote November 15 with less than two days to study the bill and get resident input who were often disregarded at earlier stages.
Remove damaging provisions from the bill. The Council should kill this bill pending full discussion, or at a minimum, remove its egregiously damaging provisions. The Council should not try to compromise when there is no time for full discussion of the implication of changes. Specifically, residents object to provisions that:
1) Overly specify what “voluntary agreements” can and cannot be made between residents and business at the time of licensing. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board already ensures that agreements are legal and enforceable. ABRA could easily provide tool kits to ease the process of negotiation. No change is needed. (previously section (l), now section (n) in 11/13 committee print)
2) Require that a group of residents live within 400 feet of an alcohol-selling business to protest its license. This ignores the fact that trash, noise, and crime related to alcohol consumption can travel much farther than 400 feet and affect residents and schools and others in a much wider area. (previously section (n), now section p(2))
3) Add the burdensome, unproductive requirement that citizens associations offer a ‘hearing’ to alcohol licensee applications before any protest. These groups already advertise their meetings, and anyone holding or applying for a license should reach out to discuss their plans and operations. In addition, there is no evidence that citizens associations treat businesses unfairly. (previously section (k), now section (p)(3))
4) Hobble citizens by dismissing their power to protest a license if the Advisory Neighborhood Commission comes to a voluntary agreement with a licensee. While ANCs are a key part of the District Government they cannot work on or understand every licensing issues as well as the directly affected residents can. Further, this unprecedented provision violates our well-established tradition of promoting civic participation, not discouraging it. (previously section (k) , now section (r)(3))
5) Weakens noise controls by saying that noise from open windows is not a violation if noise isn’t heard once the windows are closed. (previously section (r), now section u(2))
6) Allows a mere $30,000 fine for serious violations which under current rules would cancel the license. (previously section v, now section (y)(1))
Myth 1: This bill is a consensus bill drafted by business and residents. The working group organized and chaired by CM Jim Graham was never advertised, and contained no residents from Wards 3, 4, or 5. While the list of members contains many residents, it was harder to residents to attend. After many meetings in which residents supported changes that business wanted, when business was in the majority of those present, they repaid that cooperation by simply voting down residents by narrow margins to push forward these damaging changes.
Myth 2: This bill promotes DC as a world class city. The fact is that many American destination cities have earlier “last calls” than the District; some only allow later hours (e.g., after 2 a.m.) by putting the burden on business, not residents, to show that their business plan would not hurt the community.
The Alcohol Sanity Coalition DC was formed by Abigail Nichols and Robin Diener in October 2012 to provide support for individuals and resident organizations dealing with alcoholic beverage regulation policy in the District of Columbia.