New Orleans City Hall

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Orleans City Council passes smoke-free ordinance banning smoking in bars and casinos

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 2:50 PM

click image The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a citywide ban on smoking in bars and casinos. - MICHAEL OCAMPO/FLICKR
  • MICHAEL OCAMPO/FLICKR
  • The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a citywide ban on smoking in bars and casinos.

In three months, most of New Orleans will be smoke (and vape) free. At today's New Orleans City Council meeting, its members unanimously passed an ordinance from councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Susan Guidry that prohibits smoking and using electronic cigarettes in bars and casinos citywide.

"We have to change for the better to meet the needs of our people," Cantrell said.

Cantrell announced her intention to introduce a smoke-free ordinance in July 2014. It received the endorsements of Mayor Mitch Landrieu as well as health department director Charlotte Parent and several local and national health organizations. A first draft was introduced in November, and its final draft includes amendments from several other City Council members. In its final form, the smoking ordinance allows smoking only in the following places:

  • existing cigar and hookah bars
  • vape shops
  • outdoor areas (like patios and courtyards) at bars, restaurants and casinos
  • at smoking and vape conventions and Mardi Gras balls

Cigar bars are defined as a bar that has generated 10 percent or more of its annual gross income from cigar sales and humidor rentals. (It also excludes smoking cigarettes.)

Smoking will be prohibited in all bars and casinos and 5 feet from the entrances to businesses. Bourbon Street, however, was singled out in the ordinance. Smoking there from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue is allowed without any distance requirement on its street and sidewalks. The ordinance goes into effect 90 days after Landrieu signs it.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Smoking ban debate heats up in City Hall

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 6:15 PM

New Orleans City Council chambers filled with supporters and opponents of an ordinance that could ban smoking in most public places, including bars and casinos. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • New Orleans City Council chambers filled with supporters and opponents of an ordinance that could ban smoking in most public places, including bars and casinos.

New Orleans could be one step closer to banning smoking in most public places. A proposed ban — including prohibiting smoking in bars and casinos — had its first public debate today in New Orleans City Council chambers, where supporters and opponents packed the council's community development committee meeting. Following three hours of discussion, debate and heated argument, the committee approved a long list of changes to the original draft by a 3-2 vote.

District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell first announced plans to introduce the measure last summer, and in November, she unveiled a 25-page ordinance banning all tobacco products (including electronic cigarettes) from public areas and prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of a business. Today's amendments, however, exempt cigar bars and hookah lounges, allow smoking in approved bar patio areas, and change the 25-feet rule to 5 feet.

Supporters hail the ordinance as a much-needed public health measure that will prevent secondhand smoke and improve quality of life for employees (including musicians) in smoke-filled workplaces. Opponents, however, fear a disastrous economic impact that could hit employees — whether in small bars with a few bartenders or massive employment machines like Harrah's Casino — and trickle down to the local economy.

Swirling around the arguments for and against a smoking ban are a few key questions council members must now face: will smokers' economic impact prevail, and how does that weigh against nonsmokers' rights to a smoke-free environment? And will electronic cigarettes be determined safe enough to survive a ban?

Others, like smoker Elizabeth Stella, say the ordinance goes against the attitude New Orleans embraces.

"It’s not New York, it’s not Seattle, it’s a party town," she said. "A bar is not a health spa and alcohol is not a spa drink."

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Mayor Landrieu aims to end veteran homelessness by end of 2014

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 6:10 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials gave an exhaustive recap of the administration’s successes in 2014 at a press conference at City Hall today, from tax revenue increases and public safety programs to New Orleans’ increasing national profile.

Missing from them, however, were the results of an ambitious goal to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of the year. Landrieu said an announcement is coming next week, but homeless advocacy group Unity of Greater New Orleans announced this month that nearly 200 homeless veterans have been moved into permanent housing. This month, Unity also opened Sacred Heart Apartments on Canal Street, where 11 chronically homeless people have moved in.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

City grants Marigny Opera House temporary occupancy license

Posted By on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 12:25 PM

The Marigny Opera House reopens for concerts with a holiday premiere Dec. 12-13.
  • The Marigny Opera House reopens for concerts with a holiday premiere Dec. 12-13.

Following concerns about permits and several hearings in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, the City of New Orleans granted the Marigny Opera House a temporary occupancy permit, allowing it to resume holding public events.

"We proved to the city that the Marigny Opera House is safe," says Marigny Opera House owner Dave Hurlbert.

In court Wednesday, the Marigny Opera House and city attorney agreed on a list of improvements, some of which had been approved by the city before the recent issues arose following the the wedding of Solange Knowles at the venue Nov. 16, Hurlbert says. The city had already approved construction of a handicapped accessible entrance on the side of the building. Hurlbert says it will be completed within six weeks. The Marigny Opera House also is installing a sophisticated fire detection system, he says.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Solange wedding not properly permitted, says city spokesperson; Marigny Opera House needs major work

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 6:37 PM

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After the New Orleans Fringe Festival was denied a permit to perform at the Marigny Opera House this week — one day after entertainer Solange Knowles held her wedding at the facility — many in the New Orleans arts community wondered why the high-profile wedding was allowed to take place while the theater festival was not. According to Garnesha Crawford, director of communications for the city, parties representing Knowles never applied to the city for a special-use permit to hold the wedding at the Marigny Opera House last Sunday, Crawford told Gambit in an email tonight.

Crawford said the city advised the wedding planners of code deficiencies at the Marigny Opera House, which meant it would not approve any permits for its use. Nevertheless, the wedding took place and photos of it were posted by media outlets around the world.

One day later, organizers of the New Orleans Fringe Festival, who had planned several performances at the facility this week, saw the request for their own special-use permit denied.

The Knowles' wedding took place Nov. 16. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Fringe Festival applied for a special use permit Nov. 14, which was denied shortly after the wedding was held. 

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Judge clears Marigny Opera House for Fringe Festival shows, but questions remain about the facility's future

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Dave Hurlbert, director of Marigny Opera House. - WILL COVIELLO
  • WILL COVIELLO
  • Dave Hurlbert, director of Marigny Opera House.

The New Orleans Fringe Festival will present shows at the Marigny Opera House Friday evening after Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Julien removed a temporary injunction imposed by the City of New Orleans Wednesday.

Permit issues over use of the Marigny Opera House arose last week when the city considered permit requests for the wedding of Solange Knowles, which took place Sunday at the Marigny venue and was covered by media around the world. Wedding planners for the event had wanted to close down the street in front of the church, a move which typically requires a special-use permit. It's unclear what permits were applied for, granted or rejected regarding the Knowles wedding.

City officials, including Scott Hutcheson, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's advisor on the cultural economy, have not responded to multiple requests for comment from Gambit.

Marigny Opera House director Dave Hurlbert says he secures mayoralty permits for every event he presents at the Marigny Opera House, and currently holds a mayoralty permit good through the end of 2014. He says he was told by officials in the New Orleans City Council District C office (which was then led by former Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer) that it was a sufficient permit. Hurlbert also says he confirmed that status with Hutcheson. 

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

First draft of New Orleans smoking ordinance bans all tobacco products from public areas

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 12:20 PM

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New Orleans District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell caps off 2014's second Smoke-Free Week with the first look at a citywide smoking ordinance that aims to significantly limit where smoking is allowed, in the name of public and workplace health and safety.

The measure, which amends the city's already-existing smoking ordinances under its Smoke-Free Air Act, prohibits not only cigarettes but all tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, hookahs and "natural or synthetic marijuana" and "other plant products" in bars, casinos, private clubs, correctional facilities and other "public" areas, including workplaces and school campuses, colleges and specialty schools. District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry co-sponsored the measure.

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Marigny Opera House shut down following Solange wedding, forcing rescheduling of Fringe Fest shows

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 11:39 AM

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UPDATE: Issues regarding use of the Marigny Opera House for the New Orleans Fringe Festival were resolved Friday morning. There will be festival performances at the Marigny Opera House beginning Friday evening. Read our update here.

The New Orleans Fringe festival canceled opening day and Thursday shows at the Marigny Opera House after a special use permit for the venue was denied by the city. The festival is rescheduling shows and organizers are unclear whether Fringe Fest will be able to use the venue, which has been a Fringe venue for the past several years.

Hours before the New Orleans Fringe Festival opened, Fringe organizers were in Civil District Court fighting an injunction by the city to close the Marigny Opera House over issues that arose from fire marshal inspectors. Fringe organizers learned late last week that the festival would need a special use permit, Fringe director Kristin Evans says. In past years, the festival has received special use permits for the Marigny Opera House, and organizers didn't believe they needed a special use permit this year because the Marigny Opera House has appropriate permits. Organizers rushed to file for a special use permit last week and were told by the city on Monday night that it would be denied, Evans says.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LaToya Cantrell to introduce smoke-free legislation Nov. 20

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM

District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell plans to pass legislation banning smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell plans to pass legislation banning smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces.

New Orleans Health Department director Charlotte Parent added her support to a measure to prohibit smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces in New Orleans. The measure — from New Orleans District B councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who told Gambit about her plan in July and has the support of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several City Council members — will be introduced in the City Council on first reading Nov. 20. It will then likely head to the council's Community Development Committee, where it will have its first public discussion. Following approval at that committee, it will head to the full council for a vote, likely before the end of the year.

"We're moving forward as a city," Cantrell said on the steps of New Orleans City Hall this morning. "(This legislation) is is not about attacking someone who wishes to smoke. This is about protecting our workforce, protecting our residents, who wish to live in smoke-free environments, and to make sure the disparities that exist in our city are eliminated."

The announcement kicks off 2014's second Smoke-Free Week, featuring several events to encourage people to quit smoking.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Smoke-Free Week returns Nov. 12

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 9:57 AM

LaToya Cantrell
  • LaToya Cantrell
In July, District B City councilwoman LaToya Cantrell told Gambit she intended to introduce citywide smoke-free legislation this fall banning smoking in bars. Her measure followed statewide legislation, effective this August, that prohibits smoking on state college campuses, which many private universities followed — all HBCUs in New Orleans are smoke- and tobacco-free. Tulane University also has a tobacco-free campus policy, and Loyola University plans to introduce its plan next year.

In New Orleans City Council’s Nov. 6 meeting, Cantrell welcomed representatives from Delgado Community College and Dillard and Tulane universities, recognizing their respective student government associations for ensuring tobacco-free campuses. Cantrell also said her citywide plan is coming soon.

“It’s something we’re looking to put forth in legislation soon,” she said. “The support has been phenomenal, and to know we have support of young adults and colleges is so vital.”

The presentation previews another Smoke-Free Week (dubbed Smoke-Free Week 2.0, following this summer's first) in conjunction with the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual conference. According to a release, "Smoke-Free Week is a health initiative designed to raise awareness on the risks that secondhand smoke exposure poses, particularly to New Orleans bar employees, patrons, and entertainers."

The week begins with a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12 at City Hall, where Cantrell is expected to announce plans for her citywide smoke-free ordinance, which she plans to introduce this month. There also will be a New Orleans Pelicans game watch party at Barcadia (601 Tchoupitoulas St.) from 6:30 to 10 p.m. At noon Monday, Nov. 17, the event converges with the APHA for a "Smoke-Free Secondline" led by the Hot 8 Brass Band on Convention Center Boulevard at Julia Street.

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