On Thursday, September 19, the City Council will be voting on Ordinance #32,523 to revise the City Code on Alcohol Beverage Outlets (ABOs). This measure was begun at the start of the year in effort to update decades-old and unenforceable provisions and provide a clear expectation of what an ABO permit holder’s responsibilities are. Additionally, it aligns the City’s code with the State of Louisiana provisions. Though amendments are still being considered, here are some key points of the revisions:
- It clarifies that both state and city permits are required to sell alcohol (as already required by State law), and removes the concept of being able to sell alcohol before a permit is issued by the City (via a temporary number).
- Establishes new types of permits, each specific to hotels, on-site caterers, and educational institutions. It further updates the code with newer uses such as brewery, distillery, micro-brewer, micro-distiller.
- Creates a policy that would allow for the emergency suspension or revocation of existing permits in situations that “directly and imminently” endanger the community (reflecting existing state law), pending a hearing by the ABO board within 10 business days.
- Before the ABO Board can fully utilize this authority, they will need to draft the rules and regulations that govern license suspension. This must be a public process and the rules will need to be approved by the City Council.
- Requires a manager, as a responsible party, on-site at all times rather than one that supervises multiple locations. The manager could be the bartender as long as she/he accepts responsibility.
- Requires that all state and city taxes must be paid on a property prior to the reissuance of an alcohol permit.
- Creates a new section that affords applicants and other aggrieved parties appeals rights to the ABO board if permit issuance or renewals are denied by Safety & Permits. This also allows affected parties to appeal a granted permit before the ABO Board.
What this ordinance removes from existing City Code:
- Proposals to require the interior installation of security equipment linked to the New Orleans Real Time Crime Center have been pulled, as have two variations of a neighbor complaints system within a set radius that would trigger a loss of permit.
- Antiquated and discriminatory language from the 1950s and 1960s – including restrictions on women soliciting drinks, references to “moral turpitude” and “mickey finns,” and a prohibition on “berry wine,” among others.
- A long out-of-date and unfollowed requirement that every employee of a bar or nightclub be fingerprinted. Other barriers to employment that were eliminated include a state citizenship requirement and a rule that misdemeanor and non-violent felony convictions, or even a spouse with a criminal record, were grounds for non-issuance of permits.
What we think:
The vast majority of the 1,421 legal ABOs businesses operate responsibly and with respect to neighboring businesses and communities. Many are beloved by locals and visitors alike, and are a vital contributor to our economy. Unfortunately, a few bad actors can manipulate the existing obsolete and unclear rules to continue violating the law, confounding City efforts to bring them into compliance. Nuisance bars that encourage and profit from illegal activities threaten the livelihood of law-abiding operators and their staff and disproportionately monopolize law enforcement resources.
This ordinance establishes clear enforcement procedures to address potential violations and habitual offenders. The City must have the tools to compel compliance for those who think the law does not apply to them and operators who abuse their privilege.
What you can do:
Let the City Council know that you SUPPORT this ordinance for being a pro-business and pro-neighborhood measure to effectively regulate ABOs. Call, email, and SHOW UP in person to the meeting on Thursday, September 19, at 11:00 am in City Council Chambers, City Hall.