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'Emergency' D.C. bill allows 24-hour dining, later drinking for Obama inauguration

December 7, 2008 |  1:44 am

Apparently the District of Columbia expects quite a crowd of heavy drinkers and compulsive eaters for the inauguration of Barack Obama next month.

With speculation that this inauguration Jan. 20 could attract millions of excited visitors to the nation's capital, the D.C. Council enacted a special urgent law in recent days to allow any place with a liquor license -- that's also nightclubs and restaurants -- to serve food 24 hours a day for four days around Jan. 20.

And to serve booze three hours longer, until 5 a.m.

The District of Columbia has passed emergency legislation to allow around the clock eating and drinking in public establishments for four days around the Jan 20 inauguration of Democrat Barack Obama as president

That'll run from Jan. 17 until the morning of Jan. 21. So get there early and get busy.

The legislation was the brainchild of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which normally gets extended hours only on New Year's Eve.

It was deemed "emergency legislation" because members want time for advance bookings.

But the bill did not go unchallenged. Many civic leaders are angry over a lack of council consultation on the sudden proposal and the impact on residential neighborhoods and streets of abundant all-night alcoholic revelry.

Phil Mendelson, a Democrat who's chairman of the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, worried over the criminal, violence and drunk driving consequences of extra bipartisan drinking, whether by celebrating fellow Democrats or inconsolable Republicans.

"I know a lot of people are excited about the inauguration," Mendelson said, "and I share that excitement. But there are very few people I know of out partying at 5 in the morning or 4 in the morning who aren't getting drunk."

He added: "I think there are going to be consequences to that from a public safety and public order point of view. It's not a good policy to be supporting."

He lost the argument, 9-4.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press