The D.C. City Council is considering legislation to allow the Washington Convention Center's private food service operator to obtain a permanent license to dispense liquor at the new center--a permit it cannot obtain under current law.
The food service operator, a joint venture controlled by Sportservice Corp., a Buffalo-based firm, has year-round responsiblities for serving liquor as well as beer and wine in connection with the center's cocktail lounge, concession stands, catered dinners and other social events.
But there is no provision under current city law to allow a firm at the convention center to obtain a permanent license. It has been forced to obtain temporary licenses, which cost from $50 to $100 a day, to serve hard liquor as well as beer and wine at the convention center since its grand opening last December, according to officials of the city's office of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The temporary licenses are designed for the infrequent sponsors of events such as college socials and fund-raisers, according to Dallas Evans, acting ABC staff director. He said a temporary license cannot be used as a substitute for a permanent one.
Michael Rogers, deputy center manager, said a permanent license is essential for the operation of the center's cocktail lounge, which is scheduled to be open daily.
"We spent a lot of money on the cocktail lounge, if we can't serve liquor that money goes down the drain," Rogers said.
The council has already passed temporary legislation allowing the operator to obtain an interim license for a period of months, but ABC officials said the company has never received one.
Passage of the proposed bill, sponsored by Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), would require the food service operator to pay an annual fee of $3,000. The license would be subject to annual review, as are other liquor licenses in the city.
Convention center officials had originally operated on the assumption that the center, not the food operator, could obtain the license. But Rogers said they later learned that city liquor laws would not permit that.
The 1972 conviction of Sportservice's parent company, then called Emprise Corp., on a federal conspiracy chargehas in the past prompted inquires into liquor licenses held by corporation subsidiaries in other states.
However, the parent company, now called Delaware North Companies Inc., has liquor licenses for concessions it runs at sports and convention centers around the country. Rogers said he expects the Sportservice joint venture to have no problem getting a license here.