1877417Want to stay up drinking 'til five in the morning to celebrate the Obama inauguration? It's okay with the City Council in the nation's capital.
By a 9-to-4 vote yesterday, the council approved a bill that will let any bar or restaurant with a liquor license serve alcoholic beverages until 5:00 a.m. starting three days before the inauguration and running until the day after the big night. A spokesperson says Mayor Adrian Fenty intends to sign the measure into law.
The council was acting at the behest of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which sees an opportunity to boost revenue for its members by offering expanded hours of service to the millions of visitors expected to be in Washington for the swearing-in of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president.
The council action was news to Stephanie Cutter, chief spokesperson for the Obama Transition Team, and she thought it best not to comment on it. There was similar reticence from Linda Douglass, chief spokesperson of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
At the White House, Press Secretary Dana Perino was surprised that anyone might want to drink until the wee hours of the morning.
"I have no idea who can stay up until 5:00 a.m.," said Perino. "I would die. All I know is, I'm glad I'm leaving the night of the 20th."
As you might expect, Mothers Against Drunk Driving thinks the extended drinking hours are a lousy idea.
"It's a perverse extension of happy hour," says Chuck Hurley, CEO of MADD. He stresses that before inauguration merrymakers go out drinking, they make sure they have a safe ride home or a designated driver who steers clear of alcohol.
Hurley blames the bill on the political influence of the D.C. alcohol industry – which he says made Washington one of the last jurisdictions to up its drinking age to 21.
Interestingly, the D.C. Council member who sponsored the original legislation ended up voting against it when an exclusion for night clubs was eliminated.
Opponents fear the measure could lead to an increase in crime, violence and drunk driving.
But at a time of war, terrorism and financial crisis, having a drink at four in the morning may strike some as a reasonable response.