Washington Post editorial: Veto the ABC Bill
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Washington Post editorial: Veto the ABC Bill

Veto the ABC Bill

The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 9, 2001; Page A22

THE NATION'S capital has 13 Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board-approved establishments with liquor licenses that feature nude dancing. The number would be even higher today were it not for the six-year-old citywide moratorium on new liquor licenses for sexually oriented businesses. And the number might grow quickly if Mayor Anthony Williams signs a liquor law reform bill that contains a provision lifting the liquor-license ban for nude dance clubs. A mayoral signature would be a green light for a new red-light district downtown. It would reverse the progress that has been made in the central business district. If ever a bill deserved to be vetoed, this is it.

There are liquor law reforms in the overall bill that deserve to be enacted into law. The repeal of the ban on liquor licenses for nude dancing clubs is not one of them. Three council members Kevin Chavous (D-Ward 7), Vincent Orange (D-Ward 5) and Harold Brazil (D-At Large) agreed that enactment of the strip club measure would pave the way to the seedy days that all but destroyed the quality of life in downtown and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. These three lawmakers were joined by the police, business and community leaders and clergy who also stepped forward to make their voices heard. No one was arguing for a ban on such establishments, but it's hard to understand the case that Washington needs more of them. Ten other council members, however, simply ignored those voices, including Police Chief Charles Ramsey's warning about the potential for rowdiness, street fights, gambling, public drinking and "street-level prostitution . . . drawn specifically to the area surrounding nude dancing establishments." They brushed aside council member Brazil's plea not to impose nude establishments "near where people work or live or pray or play." The council majority, listening to the beat of other interests, would hear none of the sensible concerns that were being raised.

So now it falls to Mayor Williams to heed the words of his police chief, the city's business and community leaders, concerned clergy and residents citywide, all of whom want the moratorium to remain in place. A mayor who sides with residents favoring a revitalized and thriving downtown will veto the Alcoholic Beverage Control bill and return it to the council with a demand that the offending provision be removed. And if council members get another chance to address the issue of creating more booze-dispensing nude dancing clubs in the nation's capital, they should try to get it right this time.

2001 The Washington Post Company

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