A bill limiting how late young people can remain in go-gos and other public dance halls was placed on the legislative fast track yesterday by the D.C. Council.
By a unanimous vote, the council's Committee of the Whole waived its rules and put the measure on the consent agenda of next Tuesday's council meeting. Preliminary approval is virtually certain then, with final action expected two weeks later, although the measure probably would not take effect until late January or February because of the required congressional review period of 30 legislative days.
Council member Frank Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1), who sponsored the bill, said he also intends to seek emergency legislation in early December so the law would be in effect before Christmas to prevent "more carnage" over the holidays. Emergency legislation, which is temporary and separate from the permanent legislation, does not require congressional review.
Smith said the fast action was prompted by the stabbing of a 15-year-old youth inside the Celebrity Hall go-go music club at 3 a.m. Sunday. It was the latest in a series of violent incidents inside and outside the dance halls, including a fatal stabbing last month.
"How many more young people must be stabbed and shot before someone decides to act?" Smith, whose ward includes Celebrity Hall, declared in a memo seeking support for the bill.
Mayor Marion Barry has indicated support for the measure, which would bar people under age 18 from licensed public dance halls after 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. Under an amendment introduced yesterday by Council Chairman David A. Clarke that Smith accepted, the 1 a.m. limit would apply on nights before the 10 D.C. public holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.
Dance hall operators could have their licenses suspended by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for up to one year for each violation after being found guilty at an administrative hearing.
The bill exempts movie theaters and halls presenting theatrical performances, lectures or exhibitions.
A report submitted by council member John Ray (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said the bill is aimed at dance halls "catering to teen-age and pre-teen-age youth . . . because of mounting evidence that violent crimes, other criminal misconduct and the disruption of neighborhood tranquility are associated with such operations."
The halls, which usually charge $7 to $10 admission, often do not begin their performances of funk and rap music until 11 p.m. or midnight and wind up after 3 a.m.