BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
September 25, 2012
An amendment set to be introduced at Wednesday’s East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council meeting would remove restrictions that prevent bars, restaurants and grocery stores from selling alcohol on Sundays.
The measure would amend an ordinance that prevents grocery stores from selling alcohol before 11 a.m. and bars from opening at all on Sundays, said Alison Gary, the councilwoman who put the measure on the council’s agenda. Her ordinance would remove the restrictions, she said.
“It would make liquor sales like any other day of the week,” Gary said. “I think it’s time to get rid of some of these laws.”
Gary said the current ordinance is an inconvenience.
“You can buy it at 11:01 but you can’t at 10:59,” she said.
Bars already have exceptions that allow them to open on certain Sundays, like Super Bowl Sunday and New Year’s Eve when it falls on a Sunday, she said.
Restaurants can sell alcohol after 11 a.m. Sundays if more than 50 percent of their gross monthly revenue comes from food and not alcohol. The amendment would lift that restriction so having a certain percentage of food sales would not longer apply, Gary said.
“I just want these business owners to be able to thrive as much as possible and not have them close one day of the week,” she said. “If you don’t want to open your bar on Sunday, you don’t have to.”
The measure will not change a requirement that bars close at 2 a.m., Gary said.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker said removing the restrictions could disproportionately affect urban neighborhoods.
“My larger issues is what impact that has on those urban areas that are already suffering from on over-saturation of alcohol outlets,” Wicker said. “The fear is that the more we lessen the restrictions, the more the availability there is, it causes adverse effects.”
Urban neighborhoods with a high concentration of alcohol-selling establishments have higher crime rates, Wicker said.
Some stores opened up calling themselves “grocery stores” but sell little more than alcohol, Wicker said.
“What defines a grocery store versus a liquor store?” she asked. “The last thing I want to do is provide them with additional time and opportunity to do what they are already doing, which is killing those neighborhoods.”
Wicker said Gary let her know in advance of her plan to introduce the amendment.
“We agreed to disagree,” she said. “She understands that my focus is to protect that urban core.”
Councilman Scott Wilson said he anticipates supporting the measure.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.
Ryan Heck, who will take over Gary’s council seat in January, said he had not studied the issue sufficiently to have an opinion on it.
“I am not up to speed on the current liquor laws,” he said. “I have to see what she is proposing.”
The item will be introduced at Wednesday’s council meeting and likely will be voted upon at the council’s Oct. 10 meeting.