Decatur Liquors, Inc. v. District of Columbia

Decision Date16 June 2005
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 04-1971(RMC).,CIV.A. 04-1971(RMC).
Citation384 F.Supp.2d 58
PartiesDECATUR LIQUORS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Craig Crandall Reilly, Richards McGettigan Reilly & West, P.C., Alexandria, VA, for Plaintiffs.

Carol A. Connolly, Office of Corporation Counsel, D.C., Andrew J. Saindon, D.C. Office of Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


COLLYER, District Judge.

Can the Council of the District of Columbia adopt a substantive change to a legislative bill at its Final Reading and pass the bill as amended without public notice and an opportunity for public discussion? Finding that this procedure violated a mandatory provision of the Home Rule Act, the Court will declare the Targeted Ward 4 Moratorium Zone, as provided in Title 1, Section 101(o) of the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Amendment Act of 2004 ("Omnibus Act" or "Act"), null and void.


Plaintiffs are holders of Class A and Class B liquor licenses in Ward 4 of the District of Columbia. On November 12, 2004, they filed a complaint and moved for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") to prohibit the District of Columbia and the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration ("Defendants") from enforcing the Targeted Ward 4 Moratorium Zone and its related provisions, as provided in Title I, Section 101(o) of the Omnibus Act, D.C. LAW 15-187 (to be codified at D.C. CODE § 25-3419(a)-(d)). These provisions would, inter alia, place a moratorium on the sale of single containers of beer, malt liquor, and ale in parts of Ward 4 in Washington, D.C. Plaintiffs allege that the Omnibus Act: 1) was not duly enacted and is null and void; 2) denies due process to current license holders; 3) denies equal protection to license holders; and 4) is void for vagueness. After a hearing held on November 12, 2004, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order that was later extended by agreement of the parties.

In anticipation of oral argument on the motion for a preliminary injunction, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, which was fully briefed. On December 21, 2004, the Court heard oral argument, ruled on the record in open court, and issued a preliminary injunction. The Court found that "Plaintiffs have made a substantial showing of their likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that their class A and class B liquor licenses qualify as `property' — thereby implicating the protections of procedural due process under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution — and that their rights to procedural due process have been violated." See Dkt. No. 15 (December 21, 2004 Preliminary Injunction) at 2.1

At the suggestion of the parties, the Court approved limited discovery and set a schedule for briefing and argument on dispositive motions. On April 29, 2005, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mot.") and Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Pls.' Mot."). The Court received oppositions and replies and the parties filed a stipulation regarding the legislative history of the Omnibus Act.

The wisdom of the legislation is not at issue and is solely a matter for elected representatives. The questions are entirely legal: was the Omnibus Act properly enacted; does the Targeted Ward 4 Moratorium violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights; and is the moratorium otherwise constitutionally invalid? After oral argument on June 3, 2005 and after consideration of the now-voluminous briefs and legislative record, the Court finds that the D.C. Council did not observe the requirements of the D.C. Home Rule Act, D.C. CODE § 1-201.01 et seq., when it passed the Omnibus Act because the inclusion of the moratorium on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Ward 4 was a substantial change in the legislation that required a "second reading" prior to passage. Because mandatory legislative process was not observed, the portions of the Omnibus Act that pertain to this moratorium are null and void and summary judgment will be granted for Plaintiffs on this count. Because the Court's injunction stalled enforcement of the law and because the Court has found the relevant portions of the Omnibus Act null and void, Plaintiffs have not and will not incur a cognizable injury and the remaining constitutional claims will be denied as moot.


Through the Home Rule Act, Congress "delegate[d] certain legislative powers to the government of the District of Columbia ... and, to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the constitutional mandate, relieve[d] Congress of the burden of legislating upon essentially local District matters." D.C. CODE § 1-201.02(a). To achieve these purposes, Congress established the Council of the District of Columbia, D.C. CODE § 1-204-01, and vested it with "legislative power" subject to certain procedural limitations. D.C. CODE § 1-204-04(a). Chief among these limitations is a requirement that acts be read twice in substantially the same form prior to adoption.

The Council, to discharge the powers and duties imposed herein, shall pass acts and adopt resolutions, upon a vote of a majority of the members of the Council present and voting, unless otherwise provided in this chapter or by the Council. Except as provided in the last sentence of this subsection, the Council shall use acts for all legislative purposes. Each proposed act (other than an act to which § 1-204.46 applies) shall be read twice in substantially the same form, with at least 13 days intervening between each reading. Upon final adoption by the Council each act shall be made immediately available to the public in a manner which the Council shall determine.

D.C. CODE § 1-204.12(a) (emphasis added).


The Omnibus Act went into effect on September 30, 2004, nearly a year after it was first proposed.2 Title I, Section 101(o) of the Act establishes a four-year moratorium on the sale of single containers of beer, malt liquor, and ale in an area designated as the Targeted Ward 4 Moratorium Zone ("Targeted Zone"). See Stipulated Designation of Legislative Materials ("Stipulated Materials"), Ex. 17 (Enrolled Original, Bill 15-516 (May 18, 2004)) at 4-5. Within the Targeted Zone, "a licensee under an off-premises retailer's license, class A or B, shall not divide a manufacturer's package of more than one container of beer, malt liquor or ale, to sell an individual container of the package ... [nor] sell, give, offer, expose for sale, or deliver an individual container of beer, malt liquor, or ale with a capacity of 70 ounces or less." D.C. LAW 15-187.3 The Targeted Zone is defined in forty-two single-spaced lines as "the area bounded by the line starting [and ending] at 13th Street, N.W. and Eastern Avenue, N.W." See Stipulated Materials, Ex. 21 (D.C. Act 15-442 (June 23, 2004)) at 4. If this dense text is plotted on a map, it is evident that the Targeted Zone is finely drawn to include each and every business in Ward 4 that holds a Class A or Class B off-premises liquor retailer's license. See Plaintiffs' Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, Ex. F (Map of Targeted Zone's coverage of license holders in Ward 4).4 The Moratorium also prohibits the transfer of Class A or Class B licenses to areas within Ward 4 that are outside the Targeted Zone.

Resolution of Plaintiffs' challenge under the Home Rule Act demands that the Court thoroughly scrutinize the sequence of legislative events. In October of 2003, Mayor Anthony Williams proposed the "Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Amendment Act of 2003." Stipulated Materials, Ex. 1 (Mayor Anthony Williams's October 17, 2003 Letter to Linda Cropp) at 1. The proposed legislation, later designated Bill 15-516, addressed Alcoholic Beverage Control ("ABC") manager training, ABC licensing of certain events, and the powers of investigators and police officers to prosecute minors for underage drinking. As initially conceived, Bill 15-516 did not contain restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages by Class A or Class B licensees in Ward 4.

On October 21, 2003, D.C. Council ("Council") Chairperson Linda Cropp referred Bill 15-516, along with Bills 15-510 ("Restaurant Amendment Act of 2003") and 15-513 ("Catering Amendment Act of 2003") to the District of Columbia Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs ("CCRA"), a committee of the Council. The CCRA published notice of intent to act on new legislation and notice of public hearings. Stipulated Materials, Exs. 2-4 (notices of public hearing dated October 31, 2003 and November 14, 2003). After public hearings in November 2003, at which testimony was received, the CCRA consolidated the three bills into Bill 15-516 and the Council placed the bill on its legislative agenda. See Stipulated Materials, Ex. 5 (Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs March 9, 2004 Report).

Bill 15-516 received its "first reading" by the Council on April 20, 2004. Stipulated Materials, Ex. 7 (Mark-up Agenda Noting Council Actions and Assignments, Tuesday, April 6, 2004). That same day, Councilmember Adrian Fenty proposed an amendment to the bill that would ban the sale of single containers of certain types of alcohol in all of Ward 4 to combat "intolerable levels of loitering, public drunkeness, public indecency, and littering on residential streets of this section of the District." Stipulated Materials, Ex. 8 (Amendment offered by Councilmember Fenty (April 20, 2004)) at 2. This proposed amendment failed on roll call and did not become a part of Engrossed Bill 15-516.5 The Council voted seven to six against adopting the Ward-wide ban. Among the most vocal critics of the proposed amendment were Councilmembers Carol Schwartz, David Catania, and Sharon Ambrose who described the legislation variously as discriminatory, repressive, and overbroad.

After public notice that Bill 15-516 was scheduled for...

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