Walter Pierce

Shelvin seeks compromise in bar levy issue

by Walter Pierce

District 3 City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin, whose district includes downtown Lafayette, will mediate a meeting today between downtown bar owners on one side and Lafayette Police and Consolidated Government on the other. At issue is a dramatic increase in the levies bars pay to LCG to cover the cost of overtime for police officers who work the downtown security detail on weekend nights. In a Nov. 11 letter to club owners, LPD Chief Jim Craft informed the bars that the security situation was reassessed and that the cost was going up. In the case of larger bars like Karma and Nite Town, which had been subject to a $1,500 monthly cap, the cost was increasing substantially. Karma’s monthly levee is now $4,020, although Karma, Nite Town and almost half the bars on the fee schedule have so far refused to pay the increased levy.

“I want what’s best for the city, but I also want what’s best for the people I represent,” says Shelvin, “and some of the people I represent are business owners.” Last February, Shelvin was in the six-vote majority that approved the ordinance for the levies, which the majority of bar owners also supported. But Shelvin also says that he supports the $1,500 cap. “Hopefully we can come to a compromise,” he adds.

Last week, city-parish officials met with police and some of downtown’s non-bar merchants and came up with a four-point plan for addressing the large crowds downtown during the weekends: 1. Prohibit anyone under 21 from entering bars. 2. Ban the use of to-go cups. 3. Enact a “no cruising” law to reduce traffic. 4. Establish a curfew for people under 21. Shelvin says he wouldn’t support an ordinance that goes that far, but adds that he’s currently working on drafting an ordinance to address open alcohol containers. “We’re not to that point yet, it’s still in discussion and legal research,” says Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley.

City-Parish President Joey Durel, meanwhile, said during his weekly radio show on KPEL last week that he would like to see some “thinning out” of bars in the central business disrict. On Monday, Stanley further clarified the administration’s position: “For those businesses, bars or not but especially bars, that are following the rules, the mayor has said publicly and repeatedly for years, ‘No problem with those guys.’ But he really has a problem when an establishment would complain about changing the admission age into a bar, but yet that establishment is consistently cited for underage drinking.”