It looks like things will work out for Bossier City’s East Bank District after all, thanks to a little pressure by a state senator against an agency undergoing some public relations problems.
The city had sunk millions of dollars into a revitalization of its Barksdale Boulevard corridor, commencing from the foot of Traffic Street near the Red River. With a new plaza for festivals, old standby L’italiano restaurant, and newcomer Flying Heart Brewing and Pub stationed in the area, plans were to allow open container carry for three blocks that would include the plaza during special events.
But existing regulations from the state’s Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Control scuttled the idea, leaving as the only way to integrate existing businesses into the entertainment district notion the procurement of a string of temporary special permits permitting open carry connected to plaza events. While cities could designate an area with bars to allow this, according to regulations, that excluded entities classified as restaurants or gastropubs.
Because of the bureaucracy involved, the city had sought a firm to bring events to the plaza and churn out the paperwork necessary to have a running array of permits issued. That would have cost tens of thousands of dollars annually and still would not have provided the optimal environment to make the district become an entertainment destination.
Thus, the political process intervened. The concept’s backers found state Sen. Barrow Peacock amenable to filing SB 136 for this legislative regular session. Using general language necessary to negate special measures for its passage, it essentially would have allowed in the state only Bossier City to circumvent current ATC regulations on the matter.
As will happen, the threat of legislation to make an agency behave a certain way often prods it to enact the very content of that bill, negating the need to put that language into law. Last week, ATC sent a notice that it would change its rules to allow municipalities statewide to allow take out of alcoholic beverages from restaurants. This likely means the proposed legislation will lie fallow, but having served its purpose.
Potentially warned this was in the offing, the Bossier City Council in its last meeting deferred on considering an ordinance to address the rules as they stand now. With the looming change, citizens no longer would have to see their money spent on navigating needless red tape.
ATC could use some good publicity. Last year, it faced criticism over related regulations that a number of microbreweries statewide said could drive them out of business. It also recently conducted high-profile raids on New Orleans’ View Carre strip clubs that brought cries of overzealous enforcement. It’s possible that the agency wanted to avoid another episode that could make it look like a pettifogger.
Government at its lowest levels does best in regulating business activities like this. Thanks to lobbying and Peacock’s efforts, that apparently will become policy statewide. To celebrate, perhaps a visit to the East Bank District is in order.
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer or this newspaper.