ABC law limits hours for alcohol retailers

A new law will standardize hours D.C. residents can buy liquor and beer around the city starting Aug. 1.

Under the new Alcohol Beverage Control law, the city will only allow D.C. liquor stores, which hold a Class A license, to sell alcohol between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Groceries and convenience stores, with Class B licenses, will have the same hours six days a week, and will be able to sell alcohol on Sundays 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“If the A and B stores had the same hours, it would be easier to enforce the law,” said Jeff Coudriet, who drafted the bill in 1999 as a legislative assistant in Councilmember Sharon Ambrose’s office.

Class B stores are currently allowed to sell alcohol from 8 a.m. to midnight daily.

Liquor stores general open at 9 a.m. ever day but Sunday and remain open until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 p.m. Friday and midnight on Saturday.

The law comes as part of an effort to revamp the laws of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and better enforce its regulations, Coudriet said, adding that D.C. residents support earlier closing hours.

Restaurants, taverns, nightclubs and private clubs, which are not considered alcohol retailers, are still permitted to keep later hours under the new regulations.

Stores may face fines and possible license removal if they violate the new hours, Coudriet said.

While the new hours may hurt some businesses dependent on alcohol sales, the sacrifice is necessary, Coudriet said.

“I hope with this law, we’ll be doing our job reigning in the really bad places,” he said.

Afran Dirawi, manager of Foggy Bottom Grocery on F Street that sells beer and liquor, said his store will alert customers to the change in hours to avoid losing business.

“We stay open until 11 (p.m.) right now, when a lot of other places are closed,” Dirawi said. “We’re losing an hour of sales.”

Dirawi said he hopes the new law will not affect the store’s liquor sales, which make up a large part to the grocery’s late-night business.

“What’s going to happen is, more people are going to come at 10 o’clock and buy more beer to last them longer,” he said.

Even though the amended hours do not target underage drinking, Coudriet said the streamlined ABC regulations may help cutback on underage drinking.

“We’re hoping that enforcement of (underage drinking) will be better,” he said. “As you get a more effective and funded enforcement structure, you will have more enforcement of laws.”

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