Delinquent on their LCG-imposed monthly security levy, seven downtown bars are asking the City-Parish Council on Tuesday to overturn their liquor license suspensions, six of which are for a full year and could permanently shutter the downtown night clubs.
B.E.D., Karma, The Rabbit Hole, Bootleggers, Guamas (now closed) and Shakers are all facing a one-year suspension of their liquor licenses for failing to pay the levy for three months. Nite Town is faced with a three-day suspension for being one month delinquent in its levy payments.
The Special Law Enforcement Levy was created in 2009 to help with the cost of additional police officers on Jefferson Street’s most crowded nights. But a handful of bars stopped paying the levy several months ago, setting the stage for a federal lawsuit that four bar owners filed against LCG in December challenging the constitutionality of the levy.
Daniel Stanford, the Lafayette attorney representing the bar owners, argues that his research thus far has revealed no other city that imposes a levy like this, also noting that bar owners already pay for police protection through sales and property taxes just like any other business.
Sixteen bars downtown are included in the levy and are billed based on the club’s occupancy. With an occupancy of 1,300 people, Karma pays roughly $5,000 per month in security fees to LCG, by far the most of any bar downtown.
If the council upholds the suspension of the liquor licenses, the bar owners would likely have to sue LCG through state district court for injunctive relief, says City-Parish attorney Mike Hebert.
The year-long liquor license suspensions could pave the way for far fewer bars downtown, thanks to a 2003 City-Parish Council ordinance that states if a bar loses its liquor license and the building remains vacant for a year, or if the business opens as something other than a bar, that site can never again reopen as a bar.
The CPC was divided in December over its position on the levy, with four council members supporting the monthly fee for bars and four voting to repeal the levy.
Read more about the bar fight in The Independent’s news story, “Un-Happy Hour.”