New Orleans cracks down on problem bars

New Orleans, La. -- When Alcohol and Tobacco Control agents raided the Sports Vue bar last year, owner Carlton Charles was among dozens arrested.  He pleaded guilty to several felony counts, including conspiring to distribute narcotics.

Charles got 25 years in prison.  Now, the state has yanked his alcohol permit.

"His license was personally revoked as well as the location for up to a year.  They cannot have an alcohol permit at that location," says ATC Agent Brette Tingle.

It's the latest crackdown against so-called nuisance bars in the city.

"If you have an alcohol permit, you will not be allowed to use that permit to attract customers to conduct any type of illegal business or criminal enterprise," says Agent Tingle.

In a joint effort with the Landrieu administration, state agents have teamed up with NOPD officers to raid several establishments.

When a neighbor complains about a bar, an investigation follows within three days.  Back in February, a late night sweep at Big Time Tips in Hollygrove led to its closure.  Agent Brette Tingle says the NOPD constantly received calls about criminal activity at the bar.

"There were shootings there, stabbings... and it was just a problem in the neighborhood and when we shut that bar down, calls went down 75 percent in the Hollygrove community," says Agent Tingle.

In the Uptown area, citizens' complaints also led to the closure of The Hanger on South Rendon, where 38 kids under the age of 17 were found inside on May 4.

"The focus on these nuisance bar owners is huge," says Terri Smith.

Smith is the executive director of the non-profit organization Action Against Addiction.  She believes that wiping out nuisance bars wipes out crime.

"The highest crime districts in our city have the highest amount of alcohol licenses, with the exception of the French Quarter," says Smith.

Smith points out that Orleans Parish has the highest number of alcohol permits per capita in the United States.

"So, what we don't need are the problems.  It's time for us to tell the problem child it's time to stop and we won't put up with it anymore," says Smith.

The city is asking neighbors to report nuisance bars, so that ATC can investigate.  The ATC is adding ten additional reserve agents to work in the city limits.  That will double the number of agents in New Orleans.