Downtown mega bar ordered closed

by Walter Pierce

City officials say the Plaza failed to meet a requirement built into the moratorium on bars Downtown because the building at the corner of Jefferson and Garfield streets went more than a year without selling any booze.

The largest bar in Downtown Lafayette will likely be history if the demand of Lafayette’s Planning, Zoning & Development Department holds. PZD notified the management of the 1,300-patron capacity “mega club” that it must cease operations immediately, according to The Advocate, which reports that the club’s owner, Shannon Wilkerson, hasn’t exactly digested the demand and isn’t sure what his next move will be.

The club opened June 20.

A new iteration of a club Wilkerson operated in the 1990s and early 2000s in the old Plaza Cinema building at Johnston and Camellia, the new Plaza ran afoul of city fathers when, according to the daily, PZD realized that the building to which the bar liquor license is assigned went more than a year without selling alcohol and therefore must forfeit its liquor license; that’s one of the conditions put in place when the City-Parish Council in 2003 approved a moratorium on new bar licenses in the Central Business District.

Originally the Lee Furniture building on Jefferson Street between Garfield and Vine streets, the space for several years was the now-infamous Karma Nightclub and Lounge, which closed its doors in early January of 2014 after nearly two years of squabbles with city and state officials over a spate of violent incidents and police complaints about crowd control at closing time. The Advocate reports that a bar business briefly opened in the space in April of this year — we must’ve missed that — but the 15-month gap in operations means the building at 314 Jefferson St. must forfeit its liquor license. And the way the moratorium was written, 314 Jefferson St. can never again be a bar.

This latest mega-bar drama comes as the city and Downtown-centric groups like the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association explore amending the moratorium or changing the zoning requirements in the district, although nothing definitive, especially as it comes to helping Artmosphere Bistro, a popular live-music venue, remain in business.

Read more about the Plaza closure here.