NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New Orleans City Council members are set to vote on an updated ordinance regulating places that sell liquor. Some council members say current law is outdated and vague. They claim Thursday’s vote could make it easier to do business in the Crescent City.
"There's some great older language in there about it if a female is is in a bar soliciting for a drink, the bar could be shut down. That's a good one," said New Orleans City Council Member Kristen Gisleson Palmer.
Palmer joked about the outdated language and subjective wording found in New Orleans’ current Alcoholic Beverage Outlet laws. They’re the rules governing establishments selling liquor, from bars to corner stores.
“When you have ambiguous laws, it’s tough to know what’s right. What’s wrong,” Palmer explained.
Yet, after months of committee meetings and public hearings, Palmer says a new, updated ABO ordinance will create clarity and bring the city up to speed.
“This is not about shutting down bad operators, this is about getting everybody into compliance,” said Palmer.
Ajax Jackson owns a yoga studio across from a corner store selling liquor.
“People are finally taking really good care of their health,” Jackson said. “However, getting here, parking their car, crossing the street can be hazardous to their life because of the activity happening around this liquor store.”
Jackson hopes the updated ordinance clarifies what’s expected of ABOs and provides consequences for noncompliance. Neighbors who have struggled to find recourse against bars they say foster disruption and violence are also pushing for its passage.
"We need a mechanism to really be able to go after those bars. Right now, we don't have that," said President of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates Ken Caron.
Palmer says there are over 1,400 ABOs in the city. The recommendations included in this ordinance, which she says largely came from the city, are not meant to penalize owners as much as they are about getting them into compliance.
Her office released the follow information, detailing some of the issues the ordinance addresses:
1. Deletes certain antiquated and discriminatory suspension/revocation grounds such as "permitting females to frequent the premises and solicit patrons for drinks."
2. Develops an appeals process for applicants denied an ABO permit or a renewal.
3. Crafts an emergency suspension provision to allow for a temporary suspension of an ABO permit, pending a review hearing, when emergency action is imperatively required to protect the safety of the community. This provision will require a public rules announcement process and another vote of the Council to take effect.
4. Allows bars to have sidewalk seating on the public right of way, which is currently illegal.
5. Modernizes the ABO application requirements to remove archaic and regressive provisions, facilitating additional employment opportunities, such as:
- Deleting the mandate that no applicant be convicted of a "misdemeanor involving moral turpitude";
- Deleting the mandate that an applicant must be a citizen or residential alien of the State of Louisiana; and
- Deleting the mandate that a spouse's felony conviction is an automatic ground for permit denial, incorporating the exceptions provided in State law.
6. Conforms the City Code to the existing State law mandate requiring both state and city ABO permits for legal operation.
7. Requires that property and sales taxes be paid prior to ABO permit issuance or renewal.
8. Streamlines and clarifies the penalties the board can order, limiting monetary and taxation violations to monetary fines, and creating an ability to have remedial sanctions re-evaluated after one year.
9. Updates the Code to include contemporary ABO categories like distilleries and breweries.
10. Retains the existing requirement that a “manager” be on premises at all times as a responsible party, but enlarges the definition of “manager,” thus giving smaller businesses greater staffing flexibility.