WBR bar owner wants extended Sunday hours

PORT ALLEN — A sports bar owner asked the City Council on Wednesday to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m. on Sundays because Port Allen bars are suffering since East Baton Rouge Parish relaxed its blue laws last month.

Wilson Battley, owner of Ryderz Sports Bar in Port Allen, told the council his revenue has fallen off sharply on Sundays because so many patrons are going to bars in Baton Rouge to drink.

Battley said his Sunday sales plummeted after the Metro Council’s Oct. 24 vote allowing East Baton Rouge bars to sell alcohol until midnight on Sundays.

“Sunday was our main day of business,” Battley said of his bar at 855 N. Alexander St. “Ninety percent of sales tax returns I pay to the city comes from my Sunday sales.”

Battley said before the new competition from across the Mississippi River, he was taking in about $1,400 on Sundays. But Ryderz’s Sunday sales dropped to about $600 after the relaxed laws took effect in East Baton Rouge, he said.

“Something has to be done ASAP,” Battley told a council committee. “No one will want to come to West Baton Rouge if we have to close at 10 p.m. I don’t think we can wait another Sunday because once (people) get in the habit of going somewhere else, it’s hard to get those people back.”

City Attorney Victor Woods told Battley that any change to the city’s existing ordinance would need voter approval.

“Even if they wanted to change it they don’t have the authority,” Woods said of council members’ authority in regard to changing the city’s Sunday closing law.

Woods said the Metro Council and mayor-president are granted “different powers and authorities” under the East Baton Rouge Parish charter that allowed the city-parish to amend blue laws so easily.

The earliest the city would be able to put a similar initiative before Port Allen voters would be in the spring elections of 2013, Woods said.

“You’re going to destroy the business in Port Allen,” Battley responded. “We’ll be closed by December. If I experienced this much of a drop in one week, imagine what the next five months are going to be like. It’s going to kill it.”

Councilman Irvrie Johnson asked the city attorney to look into the Sunday closing issue further.

“We have to do some research to see what we can do,” Johnson said. “Bar owners are trying to make a living for their families just like everyone else.”