Council upholds license suspensions

by Walter Pierce

Bulldog loses its appeal after lenghty parsing of ordinance lingo. The Lafayette City-Parish Council Tuesday upheld five suspensions of liquor licenses against two bars and three convenience stores ranging from three days to one year. The one-year suspension levied against Club Moet stems from a sting operation targeting illegal strippers. The rest of the suspensions are related to the illegal sale of alcohol to minors.

The three-day suspension against popular UL bar The Bulldog took about an hour as council members, a city-parish attorney and the director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control got bogged down in an interpretation of language in the ordinance providing for license suspensions.

"Apparently, there's something wrong with this ordinance," Bulldog owner Shannon Wilkerson told the council following the lengthy back and forth over consolidated government's interpretation of the word "violation" in the ordinance. "This is the feedback I've gotten from you gentlemen this evening."

The Bulldog was represented in its appeal by attorney Robin Jones, who argued LCG failed to notify the bar of the hearing before ATC within 60 days of the violation and that a license suspension was severe for a first violation. Wilkerson told the council that he actually notified ATC Director Tim Melancon of the violation on Sept. 22, 2009, the day after the violation; the bar wasn't notified of the ATC hearing until March 16 of this year.

Although none at the meeting was willing to acknowledge it because it is an ongoing criminal investigation, the Bulldog's violation stems from a September 2009 incident in which a minor who was allegedly served alcohol at the bar was later killed in an accident on U.S. Highway 90. That, according to Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft and others, is why the bartender at the Bulldog wasn't cited for the violation until March of this year.

Wilkerson's assertion that he notified Melancon on the day after the violation got under Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley's skin. "Mr. Wilkerson conveniently leaves out one important detail," Stanley said. "Mr. Melancon is beyond reproach; it's not that he did not tell the truth... So, to bring here, publicly, even a hint that he could have, should have made a decision to send a violation out at that time beyond poor taste at this point."

Registering the vigor of Stanley's castigation of the bar merchant, a resident's intonation of "Oooo!" from the rear of the council auditorium was picked up on the chamber's microphone system.