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Government and People
A BILL IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Councilmember Carol Schwartz introduced the following bill, which was referred to the Committee on _________________________.
To amend Title 25 of the District of Columbia Official Code to prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages in all workplaces; including nightclubs, restaurants and taverns.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this act may be cited as the "Workers Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part 2".
Sec. 2. Chapter 1 of Title 25 of the District of Columbia Official Code is amended as follows:
(a) The table of contents for the chapter is amended as follows:
(b) Sections 25-113, 25-113a, 25-114, 25-115, 25-117 and 25-118 are repealed.
(c) Section 25-1001 is amended as follows:
Sec. 3. Applicability.
This act shall apply 180 calendar days after the effective date of this act.
Sec. 4. Fiscal impact statement.
The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code §1-206.02(c)(3)).
Sec. 5. Effective date.
This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code §1-206.02(c)(1)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.
June 21, 2005 (202)
Schwartz Statement on Alcohol Ban
D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz, chair of the Council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment, delivered the following statement today when introducing her bill to ban the sale of alcohol in all bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The "Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II" was referred to the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Chairman Linda Cropp described the measure as "very thought-provoking."
The statement appears below in text, and is also attached in file.
Introductory Statement on Alcohol Ban
June 21, 2005
All my life I've been around people who drink, and I don't - and never have.
My personal preference is to be around people who do not drink. I am tired of going to a bar or a restaurant and having these noisy and often sloppy - or worse - drinkers disturb my night out.
I never thought I could ban drinking just because I didn't like it, but now I know I can. The impending smoking ban has empowered me. My personal preference can prevail. And I know many people who don't drink now, even if they did in the past. Why should they and I have to be bothered by non-sober individuals, with their often offensive behavior and smelly breath?
Obviously, I can't say this bill is about my personal preference because that would seem selfish. So today I am introducing the "Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II."
We all know that bartenders and wait staff are constantly harassed by drinking customers. Bouncers are even beaten up
by drunks. I care about these workers and their safety. I know they have
to support their families and they have to work in these establishments. I
want to help them, and the only way to do this is to ban all alcohol in all
And not only is drinking a worker safety issue, but it is also a health issue - 1st, 2nd and foremost. It is a public health issue. Drinkers don't just hurt themselves, they can - and do - hurt others.
Let's be honest. People are dying. Pure and simple, drinking kills. People drink in bars and restaurants, then they get in their cars and drive off with an increased likelihood of maiming or killing their fellow citizens or of going home and abusing their spouses or children.
Indeed, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. Further, in 2002, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, 17,419 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes - an average of one every 30 minutes. These deaths constituted 41 percent of the total traffic fatalities. Additionally, more than half a million people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present - an average of one person approximately every minute. This certainly impacts on our health care costs as well.
The need to be sober and drive safely is worth more than the license to drink.
And drinkers don't just hurt others with their vehicles - but also with their fists, or their guns or knives. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 40 percent of all crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., finds that, on average each year, about 183,000 rapes and sexual assaults involve alcohol use by the offender, as do just over 197,000 robberies, about 661,000 aggravated assaults, and nearly 1.7 million simple assaults, and certainly some of them on hospitality industry workers.
Alcohol is also likely to be a factor in incidents of domestic violence. In a 1998 study, two-thirds of victims who were attacked by someone they knew reported that alcohol had been involved.
Now, I know I should have waited until the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation decided to make banning alcohol part of its national agenda and, through its emissaries given me my marching orders - but sometimes I like to lead rather than follow.
I know some will say that drinking is legal, and that people should not have this choice taken away. But this is a health issue - 1st, 2nd and foremost, so there should be no choice. It is also a life and death issue.
Nearly 110,000 people die every year from alcohol-related causes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, and alcohol-related mortality ranks third among causes of death in the United States. Alcoholism is associated with 25 percent of all general hospital admissions, often for liver disease, which affects more than 2 million Americans. And up to 40 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, which is a leading cause of death among young and middle-aged adults in the United States.
So drinking does kill - in many ways, in many forms.
Now, I'm aware that some will say that not serving alcohol of any kind in our bars, restaurants and nightclubs will drive away business to the suburbs. That's ridiculous. We're DC. We're the Nation's Capital. We have Adams Morgan. Our residents won't go anywhere else. And, of course, suburbanites and tourists - especially international visitors, who certainly don't care about wine with dinner - will continue to come to our non-drinking bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
The fact that we had double the rate of restaurant and bar sales tax growth of Montgomery County after it enacted its smoking ban does not mean our growth will slow in similar fashion. Maybe there will be a momentary "bump" in our economy, but soon we'll have triple-digit increases in our hospitality industry. After all, we're D.C.
But if it doesn't work out, and our revenues suffer, we can always just raise taxes and fees to make up for any difference. Or find other economic engines like growing corn or wheat in our wide open spaces.
Obviously, I do expect a majority of my colleagues on the Council - and, of course, the Mayor - to sign on to my new legislation because it's a worker safety issue and it would be "heartless" of them not to. And let's not forget that it's really a health issue - 1st, 2nd and foremost.
I know the big liquor lobby, "using their industry's blood money," will try to kill off this legislation. But I know where to go for competing money - so New Jersey, and the front door of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - here I come. I do hope they are not mad at me for not waiting for my marching orders. I'm sure all the health organizations will sign up to fund the lobbying campaign as they have the anti-smoking effort. And the unions will rally for worker safety, even if it means losing a lot of those same workers' jobs. And the gay and lesbian activist groups - who, I learned from the smoking ban, actually want government in their business - will be there in full force. I guess the ACLU here - unlike in other jurisdictions - will just continue to sit it out.
Now, I'm not banning alcohol. People are still free to drink at home - for now. I'm just legislating that liquor cannot be served in bars, restaurants and nightclubs because I don't want it to be served. I will allow tea, sodas and milk - for now. And if the drinkers insist on drinking alcohol - and they will - they can just step outside on sidewalks with their flasks and drink. And, of course, the disturbance they will cause in the neighborhood will be minimal or non-existent.
By the way, I did hear that there are many restaurants - perhaps over 100 - that are alcohol-free already, but finding them may entail a call or a click. I'm awfully busy. And besides, why should I have to spend the time and effort?
I even had thought about maybe not totally banning alcohol but trying a compromise piece of legislation that would encourage more alcohol-free environments - sort of a carrot-and-stick approach. Establishments that convert to alcohol-free would get financial incentives since they might think they'd lose money if they do. Silly of them to think that, but they do. And then a stick - among others - would be to pay more to the government to get a license to serve alcohol - a discouragement. And then I thought about having that extra money go to anti-drinking and other health education programs. But why bother with that approach, which would probably accomplish my desire to see more alcohol-free establishments when I can just ban it outright. So much easier and so much quicker.
Yes, I come to you today a changed woman. It had just never occurred to me that I could simply choose to ban a legal choice for consenting adults in a private place where the public does not have to go, and where workers do not have to work, and then get six other people to agree - and then just do it. Thank goodness, the smoking ban lobby taught me a lot. Thus, the "Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II" was born.
I'm also now looking at some other legal choices to ban - like driving, or sex - for they, too, can be dangerous to your health and the health of others.
I look forward to your co-sponsorship.
Schwartz Withdraws Alcohol Ban Legislation
Today D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz, chair of the Council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment, introduced the "Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II" at the beginning of the Council's full session. The legislation would ban the sale of alcohol in all bars, restaurants and nightclubs just as current smoke-free legislation would ban smoking in these same establishments.
Ms. Schwartz then withdrew this legislation at 3:30 PM today immediately after the session as she had planned to do.
"I had a point to make and I made it," Schwartz said. "I had to point out the slippery slope the Council and Mayor would be embarking us on if they begin taking away legal choices from consenting adults, as the smoking ban would do."
Schwartz added, "I hope this will be a wake-up call that once you start toying with people's liberties, you never know where it might end."
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