With a wink and a smirk, D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) introduced legislation yesterday to ban alcohol in the District.
Schwartz, the leading opponent of a proposed smoking ban in District bars and restaurants, applied the same arguments made by anti-smoking activists to defend an alcohol ban.
Imitation may be considered flattery, but Schwartz's tongue-in-cheek comments showed it can also be used as a political skewer.
"People are still free to drink at home -- for now," she said as she introduced her bill, the Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II. "I'm just legislating that liquor cannot be served in bars, restaurants and nightclubs because I don't want it to be served. I will allow teas, sodas and milk -- for now. And if the drinkers insist on drinking alcohol -- and they will -- they can just step outside on sidewalks with their flasks and drink."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and most council members favor a smoking ban, and proponents said they believe a ban could be passed by the end of the year. Schwartz, chairman of the council's Public Works and the Environment Committee, held a 12-hour public hearing on the issue last week, where she heard arguments for and against a smoking ban.
Like smoking opponents, she characterized her booze ban as protecting the health of workers and citizens. She read off a litany of drunken driving and domestic abuse statistics that showed drinking is bad for one's health.
"We all know that bartenders and waitstaff are constantly harassed by drinking customers. Bouncers are even beaten up by drunks. I care about these workers and their safety," Schwartz said, while her colleagues chuckled and hid their faces in their hands.
"Yes, I come to you a changed woman," Schwartz said, her voice oozing sarcasm. "It had just never occurred to me that I could simply choose to ban a legal choice for consenting adults in a private place where the public does not have to go and where workers do not have to work.
"I'm also now looking at some other legal choices to ban -- like driving or sex -- for they, too, can be dangerous to your health and the health of others."
Schwartz later withdrew the bill, saying she had made her point.