Jan 17, 2012 11:26 PM by Maddie Garrett
Seven downtown bars appealed hefty liquor license suspensions at Tuesday night's Lafayette City-Parish council meeting. B.E.D., Bootleggers, Rabbit Hole, Karma, Guamas and Shakers are all facing one year suspensions and Nite Town facing a three day suspension, after the bars failed to pay a controversial security tax.
But Tuesday night the council decided to defer those suspensions pending a federal lawsuit filed by several of the bars. The result could have negative effects for Lafayette's Police Department, as the money for extra downtown patrols continues to decrease.
The cost of police overtime to patrol the downtown area is almost $500,000 a year. For the past three years, that's been supplemented with a special bar levy, but now seven of the bars aren't paying it and the other 12 could no longer have to pay it either..
In the end, each appeal filed by the bars against suspension was deferred, with five council members voting for the deferment and three voting against it.
That means while a lawsuit to determine if the special bar levy is constitutional proceeds in federal court, those seven bars won't be paying the tax that covers extra police detail downtown.
"I think the council is acting a little cavalier with its own ordinance," said council member Donald Bertrand, District 7.
While not everyone thought the suspensions should be tabled, now the question is should the other bars have to pay the special tax too?
"Do you continue to enforce an ordinance that is arbitrary, capricious, and unconstitutional? You don't have to look very far or be very bright to look at it and see that it is unconstitutional, it's unfair. So I think the council should not continue to impose a levy that is unconstitutional, that's not right," said Attorney Daniel Stanford, representing several of the bars.
Police Chief Jim Craft said while the budget to provide extra officers downtown might be in jeopardy, that won't change police presence on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
"For us it's business as usual," said Chief Craft. "I think that everyone agrees you need a police presence there, the issue is, how do we address it."
And while the federal court case is pending, the council will discuss next week whether they should be enforcing the downtown levy at all.