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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Without surveillance requirement, new ordinance for bars and restaurants aims to 'simplify' permits, licenses

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 6:00 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEXANDER RIST
  • PHOTO BY ALEXANDER RIST

A proposal requiring every liquor license-holding business in New Orleans to install a surveillance camera to be shared with law enforcement is dead, for now. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office says its future is up to the incoming administrations, though Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell says she doesn't plan to revive it.

A replacement ordinance not only removes the controversial camera requirement but also sections that give the mayor and chief of police and nearby residents more power to revoke or suspend liquor licenses.

At-Large Councilmember Stacy Head introduced a replacement bill that focuses on streamlining the issuance of liquor licenses from under the wing of the Finance Department and into the city's OneStop shop program with the Department of Safety and Permits, which comprised the bulk of the previous draft.

The measure was approved by the City Council's Governmental Affairs Committee March 29. It'll likely be up for a vote this month.
Along with the surveillance requirement, the new version also removes a section that gives the mayor's office, New Orleans Police Department superintendent or chairman of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board authority to revoke a license, and it removes a section allowing a written complaint or petition from five or more residents within a half mile as grounds for revocation or suspension of the permit.

"I know there was a lot of concern about the previous ordinance which was far reaching," Head said, clarifying that the new measure "does not in any way propose any camera provisions whatsoever" and has no impact on how the ABO board handles bars and restaurants.

Those proposals along with the camera measure faced intense scrutiny from bar and restaurant owners and community groups including the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO), which called those measures another "poison pill" and cautioned against the proliferation of short-term rentals and their owners' ability to shutter nearby businesses.

"The rapid rate of speculative development, and particularly the spread of Airbnb, make this system ripe for abuse," the group wrote in a statement opposing the Landrieu plan. "The owners of an Airbnb in Treme have guests complaining about 'those people' hanging out outside the corner bar? A few complaints and the bar is in trouble. A developer who’s considering a new condo development in St. Roch, but the owners of the corner store won’t sell their family business? [Five] complaints from a friend in the Marigny could be all it takes to change that."

MaCCNO and other groups fear those kinds of regulations will still find their way into City Hall.

The same day Head and the mayor's office announced they were tabling the surveillance measure as written, the city's Alcohol Beverage Control Board used camera requirements for two bars whose licenses were facing suspension. As The Lens reported, several other bars also have faced similar requirements to keep their licenses; opponents fear that what was to be considered a cost of operating a business in New Orleans now is being used as a punitive measure.

Head's replacement ordinance is likely to appear on the City Council agenda scheduled for April 5, pending review and discussion with the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA).

The LRA met with the Landrieu administration leading up to the City Council's discussion of the last version of the ordinance, which ultimately was withdrawn.

At the March 29 meeting, Danielle Leger, the LRA's Director of Local Advocacy, asked to meet with the City Council to address other concerns after not having time "to properly vet this particular ordinance," and to clarify whether its previous concerns were addressed in the the latest draft.


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