Baton Rouge wants more authority to shut down tax-delinquent bars

    Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration is pushing a measure that would make it more difficult for bar owners to operate once they fall behind on their city-parish sales taxes.

    Finance Director Marsha Hanlon says the administration is finalizing a proposed revision to city-parish law that would give officials the authority to move more quickly to shutdown bars that are delinquent on their taxes.

    The measure could appear later today as an item for introduction on the agenda of the Jan. 9 Metro Council meeting.

    “We need to pull their (liquor) licenses as soon as they get delinquent,” Hanlon says. “That way, they may get away with not paying for a month or two but not the whole year.”

    Currently, bar owners are called before the Alcoholic Beverage and Control Board in late summer if they have an outstanding sales tax liability. But they’re typically given until the end of the year to pay up.

    Hanlon says that’s too long, particularly because in some cases the bars shutter without paying at all—as was the case with two now-defunct Third Street establishments owned by of former Metro Councilman John Delgado.

    On Wednesday, the city-parish Finance Department issued a lien for $7,236 against Delgado, his business partner Christian Walther and Huey’s Bar LLC for failure to pay sales taxes on Huey’s, which closed in mid-December.

    But a lien isn’t all that effective against a business no longer in operation. That’s because the lien attaches only to the entity, not the individuals associated with it. Though the lien may name individuals associated with the LLC, it doesn’t carry over to other assets they own.

    A case in point is another lien the city-parish filed in October against Delgado and his Nitelife Group LLC, which owned the 1913 nightclub. Nearly three months later, that $7,800 lien remains in place, racking up interest and penalties, while the tax bill remains unpaid.

    Hanlon and other city officials say given Baton Rouge government’s cash-strapped coffers, it’s important to collect every possible penny of sales tax revenue.

    Delgado did not return a request seeking comment as of this afternoon’s deadline.

    View Comments