This could end up screwing up your favorite venue: Earlier this month, D.C. clubs were given notice that, for some of them, police protection would get more expensive. A city fund that previously supplied a subsidy to establishments struggling to pay for cops has been cut in half. “it’s really going to hurt what we do,” says Marc Barnes, owner of the Park at 14th.
Since 2006, various club and bar owners have been hiring “reimbursable details.” Some have had no choice. If a place attracts the ire of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board or the police by, say, having a rowdy crowd or or violent patrons, they could be required to hire a detail. The hourly rate is a fat $55.71 per officer, and each detail is made up of at least two cops. The officers are paid overtime wages. Any money left over gets rather mysteriously absorbed into the Metropolitan Police Department.
In the past, the ABC Board has helped out those who qualified for the subsidy program by paying half the cost of details on certain nights. But that was when they had $1 million to play with. Because of recent budget cuts, they’ll only be able to spend $500,000 in 2011, so hard-up establishments will only get a 25 percent subsidy. Barnes knows how much MPD detail costs can sting; once, back when he owned Love nightclub, he paid 50 officers to patrol an event, he says—”not that they all showed up.” Barnes believes the new, steeper costs of details may prompt some clubs to start operating “under the radar” by opening their doors without calling MPD.
“Actually, we are probably lucky that they didn’t have to eliminate the entire $1 million,” e-mails Skip Coburn of the D.C. Nightlife Association. “D.C. has a huge budget deficit which the city is trying to deal with. The D.C. Council (and themMayor) had to make difficult cuts…”
True enough. But why is the city continuing to force club owners to pay for a protection service they may not want, if funds aren’t available to cover the costs anymore?
A spokesperson for the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration was not immediately available to comment. But in a letter to licensees, the board wrote: “Please know that the Board did not consider this decision lightly, but determined the adoption of these emergency rules was necessary to lengthen the amount of time that funding remains available for the Program.”