Rosendall to Council: Hold the line on ABC Bill
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Rosendall to Council: Hold the line on ABC Bill

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Urgent email to DC Councilmembers

Dear Councilmembers:

The Washington Times this morning is reporting that you are planning to retract the ABC Bill and reinstitute the 1994 moratorium. The Times article is online at:

We hope this is a rumor, but given the pressure that you are under as a result of the hysteria that is being whipped up by the opponents of the nude dancing provision, we just want to say: Please hold the line on the bill as passed, and respond to inquiries and objections by giving the facts about the numerous protections for residents that are part of the bill's Title 25 enactment:

* ABC-licensed establishments featuring nude dancing entertainment will only be permitted in the Central Business District.

* The bill does not treat a liquor license as a matter of right. An applicant is by no means guaranteed a license. Applications are handled on a case-by-case basis, and any allegations of criminal activity by an applicant can and will be examined on their merits by the ABC Board. Allegations concerning one group reportedly planning to apply for a license do not justify treating all possible applicants as guilty in advance.

* The applicant bears the burden of proving the appropriateness of the license being applied for. No establishment with ties to organized crime would ever be appropriate.

* The protest referendum process allows registered voters living within a 1200-foot radius to participate.

* Those with standing to protest will now include the MPD at the Commander level, as well as an abutting property owner, a citizens association incorporated in the District, and an affected ANC.

* Section 25-812 empowers the Police Chief to request a suspension or revocation of a license if he/she determines "there is a correlation between increased incidents of crime within 1,000 feet of the establishment and the operation of the establishment. The determination shall be based on objective criteria, including but not limited to, incident reports, arrests, and reported crime, occurring within the preceding 18 months and within 1,000 feet of the establishment."

* It has been a new day for the ABC Board, which has corrected the previous Board's errors. They have a competent Corporation Counsel attorney supporting them. There will be no more rubber stamping of applications.

* The bill increases the protest period to 45 days, and the ABC Board will have to create new e-notification systems that any citizen or business person can sign up for to ensure timely notification of applications for new licenses, renewals, proposed regulations, etc.

In addition to noting these protections, we urge you to remember that this is 2001 and that we are talking about adult entertainment here, and that there are fundamental issues of fairness involved. The government should not be in the business of acting as a nanny to its adult citizens, deciding what forms of entertainment its adult citizens should and should not be able to choose for themselves. Yes, all businesses have an obligation to be good neighbors and to obey the laws, and should be held duly accountable. Terry Lynch of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations has made numerous claims about adverse secondary effects of nude dancing establishments, but has provided no evidence to support these claims. Our city has experience with such clubs, and it does not support Mr. Lynch. The Royal Palace on Connecticut Avenue above Dupont Circle, for example, and the gentlemen's clubs on M Street Northwest, do not have rowdiness or prostitution going on around them, nor have they blighted their neighborhoods. Any violations that do occur should be handled on a case by case basis, not by sweeping prohibitions. If we are going to operate by anecdote and hearsay, I note that hotel bars are notorious cruising spots for prostitutes; are we going to close all hotels on this account, or revoke all their liquor licenses? Of course not.

The present hysteria is being whipped up by arrogant business owners and puritanical clergy who wish to impose their morality on the rest of the city, and by our two daily newspapers which have acted irresponsibly. This panic should be resisted. Those who do not like such establishments are free to avoid going into them, but they should not be free to prohibit an entire class of licensure by way of imposing their morality on everyone else. The existing establishments generate significant tax revenues for the District, and enhance the nightlife choices in this international city. If the moratorium remains in place, it amounts to an eventual total ban through attrition, as the existing establishments eventually close due to development and other factors.

We in GLAA have been entirely reasonable and cooperative with Mrs. Ambrose during the two-year process in preparation of this bill, and with the Council during the markup and reading process. We have compromised in good faith. All that we ask is that such applications be possible. The bar has been raised very high for them, and no applicant will have an easy time. There are numerous protections for residents, significantly more than in the past.

We recognize the pressure that you are under, as a result of the news stories and editorials and the efforts of Mr. Lynch and others. We urge you to stand up to this pressure and respond with the facts and with fairness. We will stand with you and help in any way we can.

Thank you very much,

Rick Rosendall
Political Vice President
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC

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