Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel says he anticipates receiving the ordinance banning open alcohol containers from the city’s three nightlife areas — downtown and the McKinley and Simcoe strips — on Thursday for his signature, which activates the law. That means the go cup ordinance will be in effect his weekend. However, police say they plan to tread lightly in enforcing the law initially to allow the public to get used to the new status quo.
“Naturally we have discretion on how we’re going to enforce it,” says Chief Jim Craft. “Probably what we’ll do is have some type of grace period.”
Craft says he met with the detail leader for the downtown area on Wednesday to discuss ways of easing into enforcing the ordinance. That may include temporarily stepping up police presence, adding signs in the nightlife district alerting the public about the new law, conducting traffic-safety checkpoints on Jefferson Street and more strictly enforcing existing public-safety laws.
“Most likely it’ll be used in situations where we can’t get compliance or we see those situations where a crowd’s getting out of control,” Craft says. “Arrests is really the last resort.”
“We’re not looking to incarcerate people. We’re not looking to give citations. What we want is compliance,” says District 7 City-Parish Councilman Don Bertrand, one of five councilmen who voted in favor of the go cup ordinance Tuesday
. “The feeling is that most people will comply. There will be those that will probably push the envelope and get a citation.”
The ordinance is a misdemeanor, which by state law can carry a fine of up to $500 dollars. But neither Bertrand nor Craft anticipate citations costing violators that much. At Tuesday’s council meeting, opponents of the ordinance cited $300 as the fine several times. However, the ordinance doesn’t spell out a schedule for the fines, and officials are skeptical it would be that high.
Craft says the city prosecutor and judges may recommend a fine schedule for first offense, second offense and so on. “Judges have pretty wide latitude,” the chief adds.