Opelousas may OK later alcohol sales

Mayor Donald Cravins Sr. is proposing extending closing times for businesses that derive their primary source of income from the sale of alcoholic beverages to 3 a.m — an hour later than the current 2 a.m. closing time for bars.

Cravins told the Opelousas Board of Aldermen during a special meeting he plans to meet soon with representatives of Stallions, an Opelousas restaurant which operates as a restaurant and a bar, to discuss a compromise agreement that would allow that establishment and other bars to stay open until 3 a.m.

Stallions, which closes as a restaurant and reopens as a live entertainment venue after 2 a.m., has been the target of several attempts by the board to amend an ordinance that has allowed Stallions to continue selling alcoholic beverages after other bars have to close.

Under the current ordinance, a business is allowed to remain open past 2 a.m. if its alcoholic beverage sales constitute less than 15 percent of gross revenues.

The ordinance allows establishments whose alcohol sales represent less than 15 percent of their total revenue to continue serving after 2 a.m.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board unanimously voted 5-0 to reintroduce the same amended ordinance it had considered approved on Nov. 14 that was intended to restrict the ability of Stallions to sell alcohol after 2 a.m. Cravins and Alderman Blair Briggs have called the establishment a nuisance.

The board voted 3-2 at that meeting to change the ordinance, but Cravins said the day after the vote that subsequent legal research revealed at least four votes are required for passage.

Alderman Reggie Tatum was absent from the Nov. 14 meeting and the one held Tuesday. City Chief Executive Officer Laura Balthazar said at Tuesday’s meeting that Tatum told her he was staying home on doctor’s orders.

In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Cravins said he is agreeable with allowing all bars in Opelousas to stay open until 3 a.m.

Cravins said the current ordinance, as written, gives Stallions and the Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino an unfair advantage since both businesses can stay open longer than other bars, which must stop serving at 2 a.m.

Representatives with the casino say they serve complimentary drinks to customers playing slot machines past 2 a.m. to remain competitive with casinos in other parishes, including East Baton Rouge.

Derriel McCorvey, an attorney for Stallions, said that establishment’s ownership wants to be treated “fairly and equally.” He said the current ordinance regulating the closing times of establishments selling alcohol past 2 a.m. gives the casino an unfair advantage.

McCorvey said Stallions’ owners would like to see the closing time for their business and other bars in the city set at 4 a.m.

McCorvey said he is willing to discuss the matter further with Cravins between now and the board’s December meeting when the amendment ordinance will be considered for adoption.

Briggs said at the Nov. 14 meeting that Stallions is a “bar masquerading as a restaurant.”

Several recent incidents of violence and death which Briggs said began at Stallions create the need for the amended ordinance, which contains a provision that requires an entry fee into the business for events occurring past 2 a.m.

At the Nov. 14 meeting Police Chief Perry Gallow told the aldermen a patron who left Stallions and refused to be restrained by police officers there, was struck and killed by a vehicle while he crossed Interstate 49 in front of the business.

Gallow said another incident in which a man was shot, injured and later released from the hospital is being investigated for a possible connection to Stallions,

Briggs said the entry fee would be considered a “fee for alcohol sales.” That entry fee, Briggs said, would increase the percentage above what the current ordinance requires to classify an establishment as one whose primary sales are due to alcoholic beverages.