Gray wants longer hours for D.C. alcohol sales

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Local,DC,Courtney Zott

Mayor Vincent Gray is turning to the District's market for alcohol to help increase city revenue in his proposed 2013 budget.

His plan is threefold: Allow bars to serve for an additional hour each night; allow liquor stores to open at 7 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.; and allow for a full week of expanded serving times during the next two presidential inaugurations. He expects the initiatives to generate an additional $5.3 million in sales taxes.

"This is now a major metro, cosmopolitan town and we think these proposals make sense for the District today," said Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro.

But the longer hours -- and therefore later nights -- come as alcohol-related crashes, injuries and arrests all declined in the District in 2010, according to a forthcoming report from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

Although the Metropolitan Police Department wouldn't address the possible effects of expanded drinking time, spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said in an email that it's the department's job to keep people safe "especially during closing."

Still, Gray's proposal would leave an hour or more between the Metro's last trains and the new 4 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays (3 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays). The gap will likely cause an increase in alcohol-related incidents if people aren't prepared for the change, said the manager of MADD Virginia, Chris Konschak.

Expanded hours could also put pressure on Metro to extend its weekend services at a time when the agency seems ill inclined to do so.

Last year Metro's board considered ending weekend service at midnight in an effort to save money and use the time for repairs. The time change didn't happen.

Ward 1 D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, whose district includes both Adams Morgan and the U Street corridor, said he's wary of giving D.C. residents more time to drink.

"I think that's going to be a major problem," he said.

Ribeiro said Gray will be working with Metro to see whether extended hours are a possibility. But if not, "Metro isn't the only way to get around the city," he said.

The D.C. Council has approval over the budget.

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