Rezoning for Time Out Lounge rejected

The buzzer went off for the Time Out Lounge on Monday after the city-parish Planning Commission denied a rezoning request that would have allowed the longtime Baton Rouge bar to rebuild off Perkins Road.

Because commissioners rejected the request by a unanimous voice vote, the rezoning will not be heard by the Metro Council at its meeting Wednesday, said Ryan Holcomb, assistant planning director.

“I have no comfort level for rezoning it. This is awkward, awkward,” Commissioner W.T. Winfield said. “This will not add anything to the community.”

The Time Out Lounge was located at 9374 Old Hammond Highway until it was destroyed by a fire in December. After months of looking for a new location, owners Jay and Kathleen Byers applied to rezone part of a commercial building at 3180 Valley St. so they could reopen the neighborhood bar.

But members of the Southside Civic Association opposed the rezoning, as part of a blanket policy against any net gain of C-AB-2 permits, which allow for a bar or a lounge that makes most of its money from alcohol sales.

Ten Southdowns residents and parishioners of St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church spoke out against the rezoning at Monday’s meeting, saying they were concerned about drunken drivers passing through their neighborhoods.

“We do not need any more bars in the two-mile stretch between the Perkins Road Overpass and Lee Drive,” said Carole Anne Brown, vice president of the Southside Civic Association, which represents about 1,800 households on the south side of Perkins. “We do not want a bar strip.”

Brown and other opponents said while they had nothing against the Byers, they were concerned the rezoning could eventually lead to a larger bar. The Time Out wanted to rezone 2,178 square feet of the 5,000-square-foot building.

“Size doesn’t matter,” Warner Delaune said. “It’s a safety issue. It’s a substantial new risk for drunk driving that’s not there now.”

The Byers and their supporters said they were shocked and upset with the Planning Commission vote.

“I’m appalled,” Kathleen Byers said. Byers said she was upset from the opposition from St. Aloysius, noting that she was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church. “I could have marched up here with my seven children and my 18 grandchildren to tell everybody what a family person I was. But that was not the issue. The issue was the facts: whether or not we should apply for rezoning and get back into the business.”

Ned Fasullo, Byers’ son, said while civic association members frequently mentioned that there are 35 establishments selling alcohol along Perkins Road in a two-mile stretch, most of those are restaurants or stores.

“There are less than 5 C-AB-2 businesses in that area,” he said. “It’s not fair to pin the whole safety issue on one establishment.”

The Planning Commission was set to vote on the Time Out rezoning at its July meeting, but deferred action to get more information about the size of the building and how much space the bar would take up. Planning Commission staffers have recommended the rezoning because it complies with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.