Troy Hebert, commissioner of the state Alcohol & Tobacco Control agency, presided over a three-plus hour hearing Monday morning in the City-Parish Council auditorium at City Hall concerning downtown nightclub Karma, the subject of numerous complaints and much attention from law enforcement over the last few years. The club was the center point of a shooting investigation this past July.
Lafayette Consolidated Government revoked the mega club’s liquor permit in 2010, and while the revocation was upheld by the City-Parish Council, the club obtained an injunction from a federal judge at the same time it, along with a handful of other downtown clubs, filed a federal lawsuit against LCG challenging local government’s levying of a fee against downtown bars to help defray the cost of paying police overtime for security details downtown on weekends. The council suspended the bar levy in response to the lawsuit, and Karma has managed to stay in business with its liquor license in limbo.
Several police officers and Chief Jim Craft testified against the club. LCG’s Tim Melancon, manager of Alcohol and Noise Control, also testified against Karma.
While Hebert characterized Monday’s hearing as “more of an open forum” and a “fact-finding mission,” the mood in the hearing was clearly one of divorcing Karma from its permit to sell booze, which would effectively put the club out of business.
“Any clubs that are a hip hop venue we generally have more problems with than other clubs that don’t have that type of venue,” Craft said. “Some of the problems we’ve had are fights, batteries, we had a shooting, we had some stabbings ... They’ve openly smoked marijuana in there.”
Downtown business owners and residents also spoke against the club, arguing it has negatively impacted their business since the club moved to a hip hop format around 2010. One resident said she doesn’t feel safe walking near the club late on weekend nights.
ATC is conducting an independent investigation into allegations against Karma. Hebert said it will be roughly 30 days before that probe is complete, at which time both sides in the dispute will be summoned to Baton Rouge for a hearing during which a prosecutor for the state and a defense attorney hired by Karma will present their cases. Hebert will serve as judge and could rule to temporarily suspend Karma’s liquor license and/or fine the club’s owners or revoke the permit entirely.
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AUG 29 Everyone who cares about Louisiana should take time to peruse this story about coastal loss from Bob Marshall of The Lens. It's not enough to call it a story; it's an interactive experience packed with data and amazing graphics, timelines, history, photos and excellent writing. Set aside some time, because you can't go through this one in a few minutes.
JUN 29 This bizarre story from the Advocate on the shooting of a Baton Rouge television personality reads like the script of a soap opera - but not a good one. The allegations against him include sexual abuse of children, including the alleged shooter, and a sham immigration marriage involving his own daughter. The other side? He was a chaplin for the Sheriff's Office in Baton Rouge and preached in a local church.
AUG 29 Here's a story from CBS News about a killer amoeba found in the water system of St. John the Baptist Parish. The story made all three networks (CBS, ABC, NBC) as well as Fox "News," although they have not yet found out how it is Obama's fault. Seriously, the good news is that so far officials know of no one sickened by the water.
AUG 29 Huffington Post has a blog called Love Letters, which is grandly described as "an anthology of reflections on places the world over." This entry is from LSU Football Coach Les Miles, who, it appears, loves Baton Rouge. (Of course he does; he's a rich straight white man.) And certainly Baton Rouge loves him - unless he loses (ask Curley "Golden Flake" Hallman about that) or leaves (ask Nick Saban).
AUG 29 Blogger Bob Mann comments here upon Governor Bobby Jindal's federal lawsuit about Common Core. Mann calls it a "thinly veiled campaign document" and that might be the nicest thing he says in this post. Most troubling for Jindal and his aspirations, Mann has unearthed what Bobby said just a few years ago when he first decided to shove Common Core down our throats.
AUG 29 Blogger Tom Aswell has several developments here related to the so-called Edmonson amendment. The most entertaining one is possibly Tom's acknowledgement that a State Police official is (allegedly) calling the bloggers covering the story some colorful names. Listen up, cowboy: You really think two veterans like Tom Aswell and CB Forgotston care if you call them idiots?
AUG 29 Gotta love those journalists who write something with the enthusiasm that implies they're the first one to figure something out. Mostly, they're not. This is one of those times; the post on Slate Magazine says that Bobby Jindal's Common Core lawsuit is a political stunt. Well - Duh.
AUG 29 This story by WVLA tells us about a guy who got busted for speeding in Baton Rouge. Who cares? This guy took that infraction to new heights by going 129 miles per hour on Nicholson Drive. Poor fella - he probably has spent so much time sitting in Baton Rouge traffic he just had to cut lose.
AUG 28 As the controversy surrounding the Office of Group Benefits intensifies, blogger Tom Aswell gives us some background on the current problems. The OGB, which handles health insurance for current and retired state employees, is deep in the red since it was privatized by Jindal, and Aswell gives us the skinny: this great plan was designed by ALEC. The company handling it? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana - a longtime member of ALEC.
AUG 28 Blogger CB Forgotston has a concept for a new reality show: the wives of the "Dork Dynasty." That's the name that some troopers have given to State Police Commander Mike Edmonson and his inner circle. The ladies CB has picked for his cast are not just housewives, however, and the connections here are pretty interesting.
AUG 28 Blogger Ian McGibboney is writing about the strife in Ferguson in this post, and articulating what many people down south are saying. There's a fairy tale about how there's tons of racism in the South, but it's all hunky dory up North. (Really? Look again.)
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