Serving complimentary wine and cheese is traditional at art openings around the world, but that may be changing in Washington, DC.

The District of Columbia's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration has sent letters to each and every art gallery in the District threatening penalties, including imprisonment, for galleries that serve alcohol without a license.

A temporatry one-day license can cost twice the value of the complimentary wine served with the cheese. When asked for clarification, an Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) official said "hire a lawyer."

Perhaps some galleries will. It appears that some, if not all, of the galleries have legal grounds on which to claim exemption from the ABRA's dictate.

Art galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Anchorage, Alaska have recently had openings policed by law enforcement officers to enforce prohibition.


  • Holkinson, N. Art With Whine & Cheese: Crackdown on "Illegal" Alcohol Irks Galleries. The Washington Post, May 18, 2002

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