The City-Parish Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution asking the Zoning Commission to look into a possible “conditional-use” zoning classification for Downtown Lafayette, a move spurred in large part by an effort to help keep Artmosphere Bistro from losing its license to sell alcohol because it’s licensed as a restaurant but doesn’t sell enough food to meet state licensing requirements.
The resolution authored by District 3 Councilman Pat Lewis, who represents Downtown, and District 6’s Bruce Conque doesn’t specify any changes to current zoning; it merely asks the Zoning Commission to study the issue, something that will be done in public meetings. Last year Troy Hebert, then the commissioner of the state office of Alcohol & Tobacco Control, gave the city six months to find a solution to Artmosphere’s quandary; that deadline arrives at the end of April. Conque has said that the conditional-use zoning classification would likely contain such caveats as requiring a venue to have live music on a minimum number of nights.
Artmosphere’s precarious existence has played out over the last year, since it was audited by ATC in late 2014 and found to be falling far short of the 51 percent food sales required of restaurants in order to maintain their liquor licenses. Hebert granted the venue reprieves throughout 2015 amid strong public support, notably from the local musician community. The venue, known mainly for its nightly live music, is unable to be licensed as a bar due to 2003 moratorium on bar licenses in the Downtown district. But that moratorium, as Lewis pointed out at Tuesday’s council meeting and reported today by The Advocate, was meant to be temporary — a means of retarding the proliferation of bars Downtown — and, because liquor licenses for bars are attached to the brick-and-mortar buildings where they’re housed, gave a select few property owners Downtown a monopoly on the bar business.
No timeline has been identified for when the Zoning Commission will begin studying the matter.