Council fails to pass restriction

OPELOUSAS — Mayor Donald Cravins Sr. said Wednesday that he plans to try again next week to pass an ordinance that would restrict alcohol sales at a restaurant and bar that the mayor argues is a nuisance.

The Opelousas Board of Aldermen on Tuesday considered a measure aimed at restricting alcohol sales after 2 a.m. at Stallions off Interstate 49, which operates as a restaurant as well as a bar and music venue.

The board, with one member absent, voted 3-2 in favor of the change, but a majority of four favorable votes was needed for approval by the six-member board.

Cravins said everyone at the meeting Tuesday assumed the measure had passed with the 3-2 vote, but legal research done after the meeting determined four votes were required for passage.

Aldermen Blair Briggs, Joe Charles and Julius Alsandor voted to approve the change on Tuesday, while Louis Butler Jr. and Jacqueline Martin voted against. Alderman Reggie Tatum did not attend the meeting.

The mayor said he plans to call a special meeting on Tuesday to revisit the issue.

“I have grave concerns about what’s happening,” Cravins said of what he characterized as large late-night crowds at Stallions.

Cravins alleged that Stallions is likely linked to two recent incidents.

In one, a man who had been at Stallions was killed while trying to cross I-49 near the business, Cravins said, and in another, a man was shot during a disturbance at a nearby convenience store.

“Everything would seem to indicate it was an overflow from the club,” Cravins said.

Stallions attorney Derriel McCorvey countered that neither event took place at the business and said there is no evidence linking the shooting incident to anything that occurred at Stallions.

McCorvey said there have been no incidents of violence at the business since it opened in November 2011 and that Stallions hires eight security officers when it stays open past 2 a.m.

Bars in Opelousas are generally required to close between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., but an exception was carved out for businesses where the sale of alcohol accounts for less than 15 percent of gross revenue during those hours.

The exception has allowed alcohol sales to continue past 2 a.m. at Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino, where Cravins said drinks are given away as long as customers are playing slot machines.

Stallions has stayed open past 2 a.m. under the same exemption, arguing that cover charges at the door combined with food sales have pushed its alcohol sales below 15 percent of gross revenue.

The measure considered by the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday would have required that cover charges be considered the same as alcohol sales.

Under the new formula, Stallions would not be able to remain open after 2 a.m. and would no longer be profitable, jeopardizing some 30 jobs and $2,500 a month in sales tax payments, McCorvey said.

The proposed change in the city’s bar-closing law would not affect Evangeline Downs, a major revenue source for local government.

Evangeline Downs general manager Mike Howard said Tuesday that the casino needs to serve alcohol past 2 a.m. to compete with other casinos that serve drinks to customers around the clock.

McCorvey said any restrictions on alcohol sales from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. should apply to all businesses, including Evangeline Downs.

“You can’t create an ordinance that gives one company a monopoly,” McCorvey said.

Cravins said Wednesday that if the Board of Aldermen does not approve the bar-closing measure, he will consider formally declaring the business a “nuisance,” which could open the door for permit revocations or other restrictions that do not need board approval.

McCorvey said any restrictions that seem to single out Stallions will be fought in court.

In other business:

WATER AND SEWER RATES: The board on Tuesday unanimously passed a 3 percent increase in water and sewage rates.

Interim Public Works Director Kim Fontenot said the increase averages about $1 per customer each month in order to maintain and improve the city’s water system.