The agenda for the Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) meeting today in city council chambers included "maintaining or creating a public nuisance" charges against familiar watering holes like Cooter Brown's, Snake & Jake's, Dos Jefes and Wit's Inn. All were alleged to have allowed the sale of cigarettes to minors. Despite the city's push for action against "nuisance bars," Dos Jefes and Wit's Inn, both with clean records in their many years in business, did not receive any suspensions of their licenses.
Cooter Brown's and Snake & Jake's were moved to the next ABC meeting in September. Both Dos Jefes and Wit's Inn were targeted by the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) which partnered recently with the the city and NOPD to "investigate nuisance bars that serve as breeding grounds for violence and crime," according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a press release last month.
At both bars, ATC agents sent a 15-year-old "operative" to purchase cigarettes. He asked where the cigarette machine was, and the bartenders pointed to it. At Dos Jefes, the 15 year old was stopped by the staff, but not before buying the cigarettes. City Attorney Dan MacNamara pushed the board to suspend Dos Jefes' ABO permit or at least fine the bar. "I'm not sure this level of conduct amounts to nuisance," said ABC vice-chair Nyka Scott. McNamara said that because a minor entered the bar before his ID was checked, it was in "clear violation of the law."
"We understand what happened, and we're taking measures so it doesn't happen again," said Dos Jefes owner Shawn Stallard. "I don't know what else to say."
The board said because Dos Jefes already has moved the cigarette machine, it just has to agree with the city to keep it there, and ensure IDs are checked.
Almost the same scene played out at Wit's Inn, where a minor bought cigarettes from the machine — but he left the bar, and according to the city, nobody checked his ID. McNamara said the "city's concern is minors are getting into these establishments ... with ease." Since the event, Wit's Inn owner Dennis Scheuermann said the bar has installed a lockout device on its cigarette machine, and the state police slapped a $300 fine against the bar. Again, the ABC board made Wit's Inn agree to maintain its "corrective actions" and the board recommended only a $100 fine.