Baton Rouge council to vote on extended bar hours

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Bar owners who wish to stay open until 4 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays would have to pay a $40,000 fee under a proposal to being considered by the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council meeting.

Some bar owners say the proposed annual fee to stay open an additional six hours a week is too onerous for any business other than a casino.

Councilman Ulysses "Bones" Addison, who in the past has supported measures that curb alcohol use, is sponsoring the proposal.

Kerry Andersen, of Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns the L'Auberge Casino, said in a statement, "The ordinance will clearly help L'Auberge Baton Rouge compete as a regional destination. We compete with New Orleans and Gulf coast casinos where alcohol is served 24/7 as part of the total vacation experience and this effort offers our guests the same amenities."

Jack Warner, the owner of Happy's Irish Pub, Roux House and Walk-Ons Bistreaux and Bar, said the $40,000 fee "eliminates 99 percent of the restaurants and bars out there."

Warner continued, "It's meant to help casinos, possibly even strip clubs, but I don't know if we as restaurant/bar owners could apply for a $40,000 permit."

Warner said he wasn't interested in keeping his establishments open that late regardless.

"Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.," he said, referring to the current closing time for bars.

John Smith, president of the Downtown Business Association, said the association sees the value of allowing businesses to stay open later but opposes the hefty fee that would be required.

On Wednesday, The Advocate reports the Metro Council's finance and executive committee forwarded the 4 a.m. closing proposal to the full council without discussion and without a recommendation. The council is expected to vote next week on the measure.

Councilman Trae Welch said he does not support extending the bar hours and took issue with the fee.

"By paying a fee to waive our laws, what that tells me is, what other laws do we have for sale in this parish?" Welch said.

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