Baton Rouge bars, which are currently required to shut down at 2 a.m., could be allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. if a proposed ordinance up for debate at this afternoon’s Metro Council meeting is approved.
Metro Councilman Lamont Cole is sponsoring the measure, under which bar owners could apply to the parish Alcoholic Beverage and Control Board for a permit to extend their hours of operation by two hours daily, except Sunday. The permit, which costs $750 and is good for one year, could be renewed annually.
Cole says he has long wanted to bring such a measure to Baton Rouge and believes it’s a way to move the city forward.
“When we discuss moving our city forward into the 21st century, we have to think about things that attract people to our city,” Cole says. “The hospitality and entertainment industry can all be enhanced by having a nightlife that extends beyond 2 a.m.”
But the measure faces opposition from, among others, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, who says his department is already down by 52 officers and cannot devote additional manpower to policing nightclubs, which were responsible for some 521 calls for service—largely to break up fights—between January and late May.
“With the current crime situation, it’s going to be real challenging if we have to respond to calls from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.,” says Paul, who has asked his staff to try to calculate a fiscal note on the measure before tonight’s meeting. “I don’t think it’s a good strategic decision for me to support something like that right now.”
Cole and other supporters of the measure argue that extending bar hours until 4 a.m. could theoretically cut down on fights, DUIs and calls for service because bar patrons would not all be leaving at the same time.
“You’ll have a more even distribution of people leaving bars,” says Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso, who says he will vote for the ordinance.
Amoroso also points out that bars that have been trouble spots could be denied permits by the ABC.
“This is not a blanket permit,” he says. “ABC determines if they get it and bad actors will be denied.”
Bar owners also support the measure for obvious reasons. Cole says he has talked to some of them, including former Metro Councilman John Delgado, who owns two downtown establishments on Third Street. But he says he did not draft the ordinance at the request of Delgado or anyone else.
“I’ve been going to clubs on the west side (which are allowed to stay open until 4 a.m.) since I was 18,” he says. “For nearly 30 years I’ve wondered why we couldn’t have something like that here.”
The measure is part of a larger ordinance dealing with liquor permitting in East Baton Rouge Parish. The council meeting starts at 4 p.m. in City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. See the full agenda.