D.C. bars back extended hours as opposition stiffens

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Nightclub owners and advocates on Thursday urged a D.C. Council committee to extend hours for alcohol sales, but a top legislator loudly resisted the plan, which Mayor Vincent Gray said could pull an extra $5.3 million into the city's coffers next year.

"A lot of times, people just don't go out and socialize until 11 p.m.," said Skip Coburn, executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Association. "People come to the city and live in the city because they want things to do."

In an effort to raise revenues, Gray last week proposed sweeping changes to the city's alcohol laws.

The centerpiece of Gray's three-pronged plan is a one-hour expansion of the window in which bars can sell alcohol. Under Gray's proposal, that time frame would extend to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 3 a.m. on other days.

Gray also wants to move up the opening times of liquor stores by two hours and temporarily extend serving times around the presidential inaugurations in 2013 and 2017.

Councilman Jim Graham, whose Ward 1 includes late-night hotspots Adams Morgan and U Street, said he's concerned longer hours would trigger a deterioration in quality of life.

"This is an urban environment, but I think it's reasonable for people to expect that it's quiet -- or as quiet as possible -- at 3 a.m.," Graham said. "The level of noise and interruption of sleep and peace of mind is considerable."

But nightclub owner Seyhan Duru said fears, especially about public safety, are unfounded.

"It has nothing to do with the extra hour," Duru said of whether later last calls could lead to more alcohol-fueled violence. "People get into fights at 10 p.m."

And although Graham worried that expanded bar hours would increase congestion, especially if Metro didn't change its operating hours to match the changes, Fred Moosally, director of the Alcoholic Beverage and Regulation Administration, said the precise closing time wouldn't affect traffic patterns.

"It's really not a question of whether it's a 3 a.m. closing time or a 4 a.m. closing time," he said. "It's an issue of everyone getting out at the same time."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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