WBR Council allows rural bars to stay open until 2 a.m. Sundays

The West Baton Rouge Parish Council issued an executive order Thursday night establishing a 2 a.m. Sunday closing time for all alcohol-serving businesses in the parish’s unincorporated areas.

Parish President Riley “Peewee” Berthelot said after the meeting that the executive order is a result of a lawsuit claiming discrimination brought against the parish by the Crazy Horse Cabaret, a bar that features exotic dancing.

The Crazy Horse Cabaret ownership claimed the parish discriminated against the bar by forcing it to shut down alcoholic beverage sales at 10 p.m. while allowing truck stop casinos to serve spirits until 2 a.m. The bar is located at 2901 I-10 Frontage Road in Port Allen.

The West Baton Rouge Journal reported that the council authorized Berthelot to sign a “Mutual Agreement of Compromise and Settlement” on May 28 with the Crazy Horse Cabaret to dismiss the suit. The parish will also pay damages of $70,000 to the bar.

“In our mind, we didn’t consider a truck stop casino to be a bar, but they do sell alcohol and advertise that they sell alcohol,” Berthelot said after the meeting. “Come to find out, the parish has as many truck stop casinos as we do bars so the judge ruled we were discriminating against them.”

Berthelot said the executive order will remain in effect until the end of the year. He said the Parish Council will take up the Sunday alcohol sales issue at a future date.

Other business coming before the council included:

TOLL ROAD: The council gave Berthelot permission to enter into an agreement on the parish’s behalf with American Transportation Partners to study a proposed toll road that would link Interstate 10 with La. 1 from the interstate exit at La. 415, also known as the Lobdell exit.

“We call it the La. 1-/I-10 Connector,” Berthelot said. “We’ve been working on a toll road and a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway for some time. It’s only four miles but it must go over the canal and two railroads. The state doesn’t have the (the estimated) $130 million, so we’ve been looking for a private partner to advance the project.”

The agreement will give American Transportation Partners a year to exclusively study the feasibility of the toll road.

Berthelot said studies showed that the parish could not recoup its investment via tolls with a traditional 30-year bond, but American Transportation Partners would look at ways to involve state, federal and parish governments with private interests to help fund the road.

SWIMMING POOL: Councilwoman Charlene Gordon said she thought the YMCA was charging exorbitant rates to provide lifeguards and other security for private rentals of the public swimming pool at William and Lee Park on Louisiana Avenue in Port Allen.

Berthelot said the parish contracts with the YMCA to operate the pool. He said the public is allowed to rent the pool for $100 during daylight hours on Sundays when the pool is closed to the public.

Berthelot said he would talk with YMCA officials to discuss an appropriate fee schedule for lifeguarding and security services.

PUBLIC COMMENT: Parish resident Erin Bennett praised council members for their cooperative nature during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.

“When I first started coming to your meetings, I really appreciated how y’all really seem to care about getting along,” Bennett said. “Because of the way y’all work together, it’s brought the parish up to a better level.”