"It looked to me like there was a riot going on," Martin says, "because people were running around, in the middle of the street, like they were getting away from somebody. It was quite a few people. When I saw people running down the middle of Jefferson Street, I started wondering what was going on."
At the time, Martin had no way of knowing that nearly 500 patrons of the nightclub Rain, two blocks away, had been expelled from the club minutes earlier.
Marcus Bruno, criminal justice administrator for Lafayette Consolidated Government, says that Rain was permitted to hold 299 patrons, but that 482 people were inside the building, and another 200 were waiting in line outside to get in the club. An administrator for the state fire marshal's office confirms that an anonymous complaint was filed against Rain for overcrowding, and the complaint was then turned over the Lafayette Fire Department, who shut the club down. Bruno says there were at least two fights that broke out after the club was emptied. Calls placed to Rain went unreturned as of press time.
Martin says that the crowd was coming from the direction of Rain and that he saw people wearing yellow bracelets with "Rain" written on them. Concerned about the situation, Renaissance owner Judd Kennedy and Martin closed the front doors of Renaissance. Kennedy announced over the PA system that the door was closing, but that if anyone needed to leave, they would be escorted outside by a Renaissance staff member. "We let people stay inside until the streets were pretty much clear, and the police had everything under control," Martin says.
All available police units were called downtown to help clear the area, but Lafayette Police Major Les Jones says that there wasn't anything unusual about this Saturday night. Seven officers usually patrol downtown on Saturday nights and an additional 35 to 40 officers work the night shift in Lafayette.
Keith Sonnier, owner of The Ballroom, two doors down from Renaissance, left his business just after 9 p.m. after hosting a wedding reception. "I don't stay downtown late at night because of the traffic jams," he says. "People aren't really stopping and parking, they're just riding. It's cluttered from one end of Jefferson Street to Evangeline Thruway. They're making conversations in the middle of the street. It can take 30 minutes to drive down the street, especially when people are stopping and talking in the middle of the road."
Sonnier says that since the beginning of April, he has noticed an increase of car traffic on weekend nights. "It's not gotten any better in the last two months," he says. Sonnier says he is concerned for his patrons' safety and has hired an additional security guard.
"That night there were several people out on the streets," Martin says. "A lot of them were not going into the clubs. For some reason, there's a new trend to hang around on the street, to bring your alcohol from home and just loiter along the walls of the businesses."
"Last weekend every high school in Acadiana graduated," says Lafayette Police Cpl. Mark Francis. "So we had a lot of high school graduates, and downtown is the popular hangout. There's the added attraction with the parks for everybody to come hang out, and there's people who are upset that don't want the loitering. But the way that downtown is designed, it offers that. I understand that businesses don't want to deal with it if they're not making money with it, but when there's so many people versus a few officers, it's difficult to move thousands of people."
"I've never seen anything this bad in downtown before," Martin says. "If it's serious enough that we're having to shut the doors down, there's a problem. I've always felt like something like this could happen because I've seen how everything's building up downtown. I've gone to the [City-Parish] council and expressed my concerns about it, and we've never really seen an influx of officers down here, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe there are, and I just don't see it."
Martin says that Renaissance has hired additional security, but that it still won't solve the problem on Jefferson Street. "I would like to see the council bring more officers downtown and do something about the loitering," he says. "That's the biggest problem I see down here. When you have people hanging around on the streets, that just opens people up to get into some trouble. A lot of these people are under age ' 16, 17 years old ' and they're not even supposed to be down there in the first place after 11 or 12 o'clock, but they're hanging around down there."
Francis says that Lafayette police are receiving loitering complaints from downtown business owners and residents, but that it's a catch-22 for downtown. "We're very much aware of the fact that there's a lot of people down there," he says, "but I'm also aware of that fact that downtown was revitalized to attract people down there. At one time there was nobody downtown, and people were crying to get them downtown. Now everybody's downtown, and they're crying, trying to get rid of them. It's amazing."
"When you have a small area with a high concentration of people," Jones says, "plus you add alcohol to it, you're going to have problems. It does present some challenges for the police department."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)