Funding cuts may mean fewer officers at bars, clubs

Bars and clubs may have to pay more out of pocket to hire Metropolitan Police security, after the D.C. Council voted to reduce funding to the MPD reimbursable detail program.

The program – which allows businesses to hire off-duty officers for patrols in their area – saw its funding cut in half, dropping to $500,000.

The program is touted by MPD officials as helping to reduce crime and address safety concerns in neighborhoods across the city.

Funded by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, the program is subsidized half the cost for establishments to retain MPD officers at their bars and clubs. With the cut in funding, ABRA now only pays one quarter of the cost to retain the officiers.

Emergency rules set by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board – a body under ABRA – also went into effect Jan. 12, making the subsidy now only available Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m., and will only last until funding is exhausted or until the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

One business group dealing with the changes is the nonprofit Adams Morgan Partnership, created in 2005 through legislation passed by the D.C. Council. The partnership’s purpose is to provide maintenance, security and marketing services to businesses in Adams Morgan, and it hires MPD officers to patrol parts of the neighborhood.

Kristen Barden, executive director of Adams Morgan Partnership, said the reduced subsidy from ABRA and the reduction of hours and days that reimbursable detail officers can be used, may cause the partnership to reduce the number of MPD officers hired.

Usually the partnership hires details Friday and Saturday nights, as well as for holidays, she said. A tax paid by commercial property owners in the area helps fund the partnership, which in turn covers the cost of the details.

“We’re hoping that some subsidy will be available even after March,” Barden said.

She stressed that all businesses will still be able to hire officers through the program, but there’s more cost involved.

Barden said the reimbursable detail program is purely voluntary, unless a business has a court order requiring it to hire MPD details.

Fred Moosally, director of ABRA, wrote a letter Jan. 6 to establishments with liquor licenses saying the ABC Board determined that emergency rules were necessary “to lengthen the amount of time that the funding remains available for the Program.”

Rob Osta, general manager of local bar McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon, said he was unaware of the subsidy change in the reimbursable detail program. He said that building managers, not the bar’s management, hired two officers Tuesdays and also Thursdays through Saturdays.

“They’re there for noise complaints and security,” he said.

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