St. Tammany holds off on change to alcohol ordinance

Several St. Tammany Parish Council members balked at the idea of reducing the amount of non-alcoholic sales a restaurant must have to be classified as a restaurant with a lounge rather than a bar when it comes to its liquor license.

The Parish Council was considering passage of an ordinance that would have made the local law track the state law, which sets the bar for non-alcoholic purchases at 50 percent rather than 60 percent, as St. Tammany Parish presently requires.

Carlo Hernandez, of Mandeville, urged the Parish Council not to make the change. “The parish has every right to make the law more restrictive,’’ than the state, he told the council, saying he initially thought the language in the proposed ordinance was a typo. “Why are we making it easier,’’ he asked.

Hernandez went further, suggesting that the parish should require employees of establishments that serve alcohol to be at least 21 years old. “Why doesn’t St. Tammany lead by example,’’ he asked.

Parish Council members weren’t persuaded to make that change. Councilman Marty Gould said such a restriction would create a hardship for young people working their way through college.

“You’re talking about putting a bunch of kids out of work,’’ he said.

Councilman Chris Canulette agreed. “You can pick up a rifle at 18. You can go to jail for life at 18. They can get married. We can’t just shove them in a corner and use 21 as an excuse. Realistically, they’re young adults, and they need to be treated like young adults.

But several council members shared Hernandez’s concerns about easing the sales requirement for a restaurant alcoholic beverage license.

Councilman Gene Bellisario said that a restaurant that serves alcohol backs up to a residential area in his district, and he already gets regular calls from residents complaining about noise late at night.

“You’re inviting more problems,’’ he said of the proposed change. “People call me at 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning. They (customers) don’t leave the parking lot. They stay. They don’t go home at 1 and go to bed,’’ he said.

Councilman Marty Dean said he didn’t understand the rationale for changing the percentage. “We should stick with what got us here. I’d like to stick with 60 percent,’’ he said.

Council Chairman Jerry Binder said that he agreed with Bellesario and Dean.

Gould said at the outset of the discussion that he wanted more time to absorb the proposed changes, and that’s what the Parish Council ended up deciding to do with a vote to table the measure