A District effort aimed at reducing the city's high infant mortality rate has languished for 10 months waiting for a city agency to print and distribute signs to be displayed in restaurants, bars and liquor stores warning pregnant women not to drink alcohol.
Not only are the signs late, they are "very tasteless," said D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), sponsor of a bill the council passed in September mandating the signs. The yellow signs, which Kane and restaurant executives first saw yesterday, feature an infant holding a martini glass, encircled in the ubiquitous circle-and-slash mark. "I'm appalled at the signs. Is this what we waited almost a year for?" Kane said. "It looks antibaby."
The law called upon the D.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Board to issue the signs. Benjamin Johnson, director of the Business Regulation Administration, which oversees the board, said the signs have been delayed by the city's print shop and by the board's initial decision to delay issuing the signs until it wrote rules allowing restaurants to print similar notices in menus. The signs will soon be distributed.
Debbie Schechter, an attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which supported the bill, said she called the alcohol board repeatedly since last fall to ask about the signs and for five months was told they were at the printer.
Michael Maher, director of the Washington D.C. Restaurant & Beverage Association, said his members supported the bill but are upset they weren't consulted on the design and color. "We had heard nothing but positive things about similar sign bills in New York and elsewere and were behind it 100 percent as our little effort to help with our embarrassing infant mortality rate in this city," Maher said. "We never got to see it, and I hope resistance doesn't develop because it's so ugly.