Councilmember Jim Graham introduced new legislation today designed to strengthen rules regulating any establishment that serves alcohol and provides entertainment to underage patrons. The legislation comes just two weeks after the accidental shooting of teenager Taleshia Ford at the Ninth Street nightclub Smarta/Broadway.
“Under existing D.C. law, there are—other than the prohibitions against the sale of alcohol to minors—no restrictions or guidelines whatsoever on whether a person under 21 can enter a bar where alcohol is served. Many people were astonished in D.C. to lean of this fact,” Graham said in his remarks.
He said his bill aimed to enhance oversight where not enough had existed before. The text of the bill is below.
In its current form, the “Protection and Safety of Underage Persons Amendment Act of 2007” would require alcohol-licensed establishments that provide entertainment to acquire a special permit in order to admit minors. To be approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, applicants would have to outline security plans and would be required to take responsibility for any breach in security, even if the establishment had been rented to an outside entity or promoter when the breach took place.
The bill Graham presented to the Council today, however, departed slightly from comments he made directly following Ford’s death. Initially, Graham said he would consider emergency legislation prohibiting minors from attending any nightclub where alcohol was served. But at a public oversight roundtable Jan. 25, teens, club owners, and musicians protested such a bill, stating that an outright prohibition would be a draconian response to the events at Smarta/Broadway. Graham ultimately decided to abandon plans to introduce an emergency bill, which is temporary but could be enacted faster, and has introduced permanent legislation instead. The bill also provides exceptions for minors who are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
According to Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration spokesperson Jeff Coudriet, Graham’s bill takes a proactive stance. “It makes everyone do it up front,” he says of the requirement to provide security plans and incident logs, “which is not the case now. We only require people to do it once problems occur.”
Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr. called for an emergency hearing on gun violence in the District, and proposed raising penalties for the possession of guns in the District. “This is necessary because we need to stop killing on the streets of Washington,” he said.