April 7, 2016 at 5:00 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Nightlife advocates praise ANC bill introduced in D.C. Council

Mark Lee, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Lee (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay and straight nightlife advocates have joined forces in urging the D.C. Council to approve a bill introduced on Tuesday by Councilmembers Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and David Grosso (I-At-Large) that would consolidate the legal standing for protesting liquor licenses with the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

But members of some of the city’s longstanding civic associations, some of whom have opposed licenses for gay bars, are expected to rise in opposition to the bill.

Among other things, the bill would discontinue the legal standing under current law given to ad-hoc groups of five or more people and to citizens associations authorizing them to file a protest opposing the renewal of or a new liquor license for bars, restaurants, or nightclubs before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Although the ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve liquor licenses, nightlife advocates have said small groups of people who don’t represent local neighborhoods as a whole have the authority under the current law to block licenses for months and sometimes more than a year, creating financial hardship for small, community based businesses such as restaurants and bars.

Opponents of the licenses have argued that opening bars or nightclubs in their neighborhoods would create excessive noise, traffic congestion, and parking problems.

The D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association, headed by gay nightlife advocate Mark Lee, is one of the leading supporters of the Bonds-Grosso bill. Lee has argued that assigning the elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to be the sole entity responsible for legally supporting or protesting liquor licenses would make the licensing process more democratic and fairer.

A statement released by the organization on Tuesday says under the provisions of the newly introduced bill, ad hoc groups and citizens associations would be required to “equitably participate alongside all community stakeholders, including both business licensing supporters and those with concerns and objections, through engagement in the process established by the local ANC to assist the elected commissioners in determining its advisory recommendation to the ABC Board.”

Bonds has said that after holding discussions with ANC members throughout the city as well as with community activists, support for the legislation appears strong.

But ANC member Alex Padro of ANC 6E in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, who’s gay, said he is opposed to the provision eliminating legal standing for liquor license protests for small ad hoc groups and citizens associations.

“I feel it’s part of the democratic process for citizens and civic groups to play a role in the licensing process,” he said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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