Drinking on the streets of New Orleans is not going extinct.
A flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts this week have some up in arms about the City of New Orleans’ alleged “war on go-cups” — all of which seemed to stem from a few articles promoting the New Orleans Daiquiri Festival Aug. 17. A petition on Neighborland.com asked go-cups to “remain legal."
But none of the articles pointed to any existing or planned ordinances to remove the city’s open container laws, and there is nothing of that sort in the works, according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration. “The City is not pursuing a universal restriction on go-cups,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s press secretary Tyler Gamble wrote in a statement to Gambit.
New businesses applying for a conditional use permit to open a bar, restaurant or venue, however, may be asked by the City Planning Commission (CPC) or the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to restrict or ban go-cups — a policy that has been in place since at least 2007, under the most recent zoning ordinances. That conditional use permit allows a bar, restaurant or venue to open within an area typically not zoned for such uses, like a primarily residential area. It also applies to the arts and cultural overlay district on Freret, where the zoning ordinance for conditional use permits reads, “To-go-cups shall be prohibited for those premises with alcoholic beverage permits.”
[edited for clarification to include the following] The upcoming St. Claude Avenue arts and cultural overlay, however, allows bars to have go-cups, provided they have the bar's logo.
In addition, a bar or venue may also sign a “good neighbor agreement” with the board, CPC and neighborhood organizations that prevents the bar from issuing go-cups. The agreements typically also include a litter abatement program, like adding trash cans.
Those restrictions do not apply to existing businesses, including bars and daiquiri shops, unless they are brought before New Orleans City Council or the alcohol board for violations, such as noise, litter, delinquent taxes or other issues. (Most recently at St. Roch Tavern.)
What about drinker’s rights? The city’s open-container law doesn’t prevent drinking outside a bar unless it’s in a glass or “metal” container: According to the city, “It shall be unlawful for owners of establishments which sell beverages in glass or metal containers in the city to knowingly allow any person to leave the premises of such establishment carrying an opened glass or opened metal container.” And the open-container law means there’s no reason you can’t bring your own go-cup to any establishment, either.
At today's New Orleans City Council meeting, council members passed an update to the city's mobile vending laws to allow for more food trucks and less strict regulations.
The current laws, first drafted in the 1950s, cap active vendor permits to 100, limit operating time to 45 minutes, and prevent trucks from operating within 600 feet of restaurants and schools. Stacy Head held a public meeting in October 2012 to kickstart discussions about what a food truck friendly ordinance would look like. The New Orleans Food Truck Coalition joined the discussion to help draft legislation to promote those businesses.
In January, Head wanted to increase permits from 100 to 200 and shrink the "no vendors" zone to 50 feet while a restaurant is open. She introduced her measure January 24, and a Food Truck Coalition petition to update mobile vending laws gathered hundreds of signatures — meanwhile, restaurant owner Reuben Laws gathered signatures for another online petition to halt any new mobile vending legislation.
In February, the measure went before council's economic development committee, where coalition attorney Andrew Legrand said its opponents in the Louisiana Restaurant Association are running a "fear-based campaign" about food truck health and safety while it's more afraid of possible competition from mobile vendors. City health commissioner Karen DeSalvo said she fears changing legislation outpaces health code updates. Head called the health concerns a red herring — she produced a letter from state Department of Heath and Hospitals that said, "Our office will continue to inspect all food establishments and enforce the state's sanitary code, regardless of business model."
Tim McConnell, who served as the New Orleans Fire Department's (NOFD) acting superintendent following the departure of Charles Parent, now takes the reins officially as the NOFD chief.
This morning, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced McConnell's selection from among dozens of applicants and contenders. McConnell, a nearly 30-year veteran who joined the department in 1984, is NOFD's 11th superintendent. Parent led NOFD from 1982 until last month, when he took medical leave. McConnell inherits an NOFD with a lean budget (at $85 million) and a "redeployment plan" that will close houses at Arabella and in Gentilly.
Under his post-Katrina leadership, McConnell helped the NOFD restore 20 engine houses and helped raise more than $1 million and an additional $250,000 in construction materials. McConnell also served as the incident commander for Super Bowl XLVII (you likely have seen him and his mustache during frequent Super Bowl safety press conferences.)
"I am both humbled and honored that Mayor Landrieu has chosen me to lead this proud and storied fire department," McConnell said in a statement. "I could not be more proud than to have helped guide the City through Katrina and I look forward to the opportunity to lead the New Orleans Fire Department in becoming the model first responder agency for the 21st Century."
McConnell received the 2008 New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent’s Award and the 2007 Order of St. Louis Medal from Archbishop Alfred Hughes.
On May 1, Mayor Mitch Landrieu vetoed New Orleans City Council's passing of council vice president Stacy Head's food truck ordinance, a pilot plan package at that would've updated the city's decades-old mobile vendor laws. Head responded with a compromise plan — to at least open 75 mobile vendor permits in the interim while drafting a Landrieu-approved plan.
Before Landrieu's annual State of the City address this afternoon, Head told Gambit's Kevin Allman that the legislation now is "largely in the administration’s court."
"It’s horribly disappointing," she said. "With the issues the city has before us, the violent crime that is strangling our city, the quality of life issues left unresolved on a daily basis, the crumbling infrastructure — for this to have taken such of my energy and time, it’s disappointing."
Head asks that Landrieu "stay true to his word and support food trucks and increase the number by 75 in this interim while he drafts this legislation."
"We just need to know what he wants. For 10 months we hadn’t heard that," she said. "So I wrote a letter, I told them verbally, I told them in a statement and I told them on the dais, that if they can present some kind of package to us, maybe we can get the ball rolling."
On May 16, City Council will address Landrieu's veto, though Head said she doesn't know whether she'll have the votes to override it.
"I’m very pragmatic, and I know there are practical challenges to that," she said, "which is why I've given the council and the mayor two options: We can keep the status quo, which is clearly what the mayor wants, over the reforms I passed."
New Orleans City Council did not take action on Mayor Mitch Landrieu's veto of the re-drafted food truck ordinance, originally passed in council last month. City Council will address the issue at its May 16 meeting, where it could overturn the veto.
Meanwhile, Stacy Head introduced a new, stripped-down measure which would would increase available permits of all mobile food vendors. "While the intention is to rewrite the entirety," the ordinance reads," the new measure — just one part of the larger ordinance — will provide "short-term relief." The ordinance originally only applied to food truck vendors, but Landrieu's veto letter said he wanted the bill to include "itinerant vendors, including those governing frozen seafood, vegetable and fruit," as well as food trucks. Council will hear the measure May 16, should Landrieu's veto stand.
Read Head's full letter below:
I am disappointed that the mayor has vetoed the food truck ordinance, but I await his suggested improvements as he promised he would provide in his veto statement. I wish to thank those in the administration, my colleagues, neighborhood groups, restaurateurs, the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, and the Louisiana Restaurant Association for their hard work over the past 10 months to draft legislation upon which we could all agree. I believe the end result was a thoughtful compromise position that supported the regulated growth of the food truck industry and I do not agree with the rationale for the veto. Nevertheless, considering the practical difficulties of a veto override, I have today introduced an ordinance that concedes to the mayor's desire to maintain the status quo while a complete re-write of the law is accomplished, but allows for an additional 75 itinerant vendors (with no distinction between food trucks, seafood vendors, fruit vendors or the like). While I believe the series of amendments that the council passed was preferable, in a pragmatic effort to move forward, I have submitted this alternative.
Following last month's passage of a long-brewing ordinance redrafting the city's decades-old mobile vending laws, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vetoed it, citing fears that it violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. "It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court," Landrieu wrote in his formal letter to clerk of council Peggy Lewis.
Landrieu wrote that the ordinance's supporters even have expressed its unconstitutionality including its author, City Council president Stacy Head, who voted in its favor yet also spoke against several last-minute amendments at last month's council meeting. As written, the ordinance would open 75 additional food truck permits, increase the amount of time food trucks can operate (from a previous 45 minute rule), require trucks to operate within 300 feet of a restroom, and allow trucks to operate 200 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants — that distance was disputed from its originally proposed 50 feet, to 100 feet, then Jackie Clarkson's proposed 300 feet, to a compromise of 200 feet.
The ordinance can be reintroduced in City Council, where five votes could overturn Landrieu's veto. Here is Landrieu's veto letter:
Dear Madam Clerk:
I hereby return Ordinance M.C.S. 025291 (Calendar Number 29,497) disapproved for the following reasons:
Both the author of the ordinance and its principal proponent have publicly stated their belief that elements of the adopted ordinance as amended may be unconstitutional.
Further, the City Attorney has raised Equal Protection concerns and opined that this ordinance would not withstand a legal challenge. It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court.
My veto notwithstanding, I strongly support Councilmember At-Large Head and the City Council’s efforts to update the City Code regulations pertaining to itinerant vendors, including those governing frozen seafood, vegetable and fruit, and food trucks.
Accordingly, I have directed my staff to work with the Council to immediately address this issue and develop changes which will result in mobile food vending laws which are legal, fair, enforceable and best serve the industry and the people of New Orleans.
Yours very truly,
Mitchell J. Landrieu
Today is May Day, or International Workers Day. In New Orleans, immigrant workers and their families and supporters plan to march to City Hall to demand better workers' rights and call for an end to deportations.
The Congress of Day Laborers and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice co-organized the event, which begins with a march at 11:30 a.m. at Armstrong Park. The march meets at the rally at 2:30 p.m. outside City Hall, where participants will call on New Orleans City Council members and Mayor Mitch Landrieu to prevent undocumented workers from being sent to Orleans Parish Prison.
A flyer labeled "Bywater Rising" asks "Are you tired of the following?" followed by a list of complaints musicians, venue owners and others have made in the wake of the City of New Orleans' enforcement of noise complaints and alcohol and entertainment permits.
The flyer lists "business closures and harassment from city government"; "taking of public spaces from the people who need it most"; "artists, musicians and buskers being forced off the street and into starvation"; and "the je ne sais quoi of New Orleans being packaged and incorporated," adjacent to a fleur de lis with Mickey Mouse ears crossed out in red.
"Then off of your ass and into the streets," the flyer reads. Groups of musicians, bar owners and others organized to march against the city's "crackdown" (from last year's permiting issues to the recent issues at St. Roch Tavern and the suspension of music at Mimi's in the Marigny) to be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow beginning at Mickey Markey Park in Bywater.
The Facebook event, which counts more than 300 attendees, says the protest is to show "New Orleans citizens will not stand by and watch attempts to quiet New Orleans' vibrant music scene." Event organizers encourage "costumes, marching bands, instruments, flags and signs."
A New Orleans City Council hearing on two ordinances that will provide a funding mechanism for the new Office of Police Secondary Employment, originally set for Tuesday, April 9 and rescheduled for Wednesday, April 17, has been rescheduled again. A before the City Council's Budget/Audit/Board of Review Committee is now set for Thursday, April 25.
In the meantime, you can read more about the ordinances and opposition to the city's proposed New Orleans Police Department paid detail overhaul in this week's Gambit.
A few hours before DJ Soul Sister kicked off her popular weekly "Hustle" dance party upstairs, Mimi's in the Marigny announced on Saturday that the bar's music schedule is suspended indefinitely.
We regret to inform you that Mimi's has to suspend music for the time being. We will keep you informed as we ourselves become informed of the situation. Please remember that we are still your favorite neighborhood bar and continue to support us and our amazing employees. Kitchen will still be cooking and drinks will continue to flow. Thank you for your continued support.
A lawsuit filed by Marigny residents in Orleans Parish civil district court on Friday challenges that the bar hosts music "illegally" and noise is "plainly audible" in neighborhood homes and businesses, causing "physical discomfort and annoyance." Judge Michael Bagneris told attorneys representing Mimi’s that the bar must cease its music unless it can present city permits that say it can do otherwise. The lawsuit alleges that the bar has hosted music without proper permits and is not zoned for entertainment.
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