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Baton Rouge entertainment district discussion emerges from failed bid to expand bar hours

Though Metro Council members defeated a measure Wednesday that would have allowed bars and restaurants to stay open until 4 a.m., debate over the issue rekindled the idea of creating an entertainment district—or, perhaps several entertainment districts—in Baton Rouge.

Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso floated the idea at Wednesday’s meeting, and tells Daily Report he plans to start working on an ordinance that would create the basic framework for an entertainment district: a defined area with limited or no vehicular access, specific noise regulations, and extra security paid for by establishment owners within the district.

Though such districts could be established anywhere, Amoroso says it’s particularly important for the Third Street corridor downtown.

“So much investment has gone into downtown, it’s important to find something people can be happy with,” Amoroso says. “We need something comprehensive that could be used downtown but could also be applied to any area of the parish.”

Amoroso says he initially planned to support the 4 a.m. ordinance but changed his mind after hearing opposition from downtown property owners and residents, who are upset about noise and traffic generated by downtown bars. He says some attorneys even offered to help him draft an entertainment district ordinance.

Charles Landry is one of those attorneys. His offices are in the new IBM tower and his Fishman Haygood law firm has a corporate suite on the 10th floor of the adjacent 525 Lafayette St. building. Landry says he and others are periodically awakened in the middle of the night by loud music from vehicles.

“It’s not just on weekends,” Landry says. “It’s very disturbing and it’s a problem. The police are doing the best they can. But it’s an overwhelming problem.”

Landry would like to establish a pedestrian-only district, like Memphis has on Beale Street and Nashville has on portions of its Broadway.

But while that may sound like a good idea, implementing such a solution is far more complicated than it sounds, says Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer.

“The police historically have objected to that,” Rhorer says. “They want to keep the roads open for safety reasons. Plus, you have two reception halls on Third Street and hotels, so there are a lot of logistics to consider.”

Rhorer points out that several blocks of downtown, including Third Street, already comprise a designated art and entertainment district, which by design encourages a diversity of uses beyond just bars and nightclubs.

Rhorer also says the DDD has been working with property owners, bar owners and the police department to address nighttime noise and traffic concerns.

Landry applauds the DDD’s efforts and says the situation has improved in recent months. But he believes more could be done.

“What Davis has been doing is great,” he says. “But it’s still a problem.”

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