On Monday, the City of New Orleans unveiled a $40 million public safety plan to help curb crime with several measures that could directly impact bar owners and the world famous Bourbon Street nightlife. As WWLV reports the plan calls the closure of Bourbon Street to vehicles during busy hours, extra street lights, increased video surveillance, more police patrols, and proposes that bars across the city to close their doors at 3 a.m.
Patrons would still be able to enter and exit the bars but doors would be closed to deter the “free and open flow” of people. The measures would also be combined with police “sweeps” of Bourbon Street to keep people off the thoroughfare.
But not everyone is on board with the new proposals. Several French Quarter bar owners have raised questions about how the new measures would affect their businesses and the culture of New Orleans’ iconic late-night party destination.
“The problem is during a normal week it wouldn’t be terrible, but on weekends and during special events, it would,” Earl Bernhardt, co-owner of Tropical Isle and the Funky Pirate, tells Off Beat Magazine. “Our bars have a certain capacity [mandated by law] and people very often spill out onto the streets. You can’t just run them off the street, it would cost us a ton of money.”
Others, like Trey Monaghan of Molly's at the Market, point out that closing the doors — though not completely closing the bars — could create the perception of a 3 a.m. last call and hurt profits. "When our sales go down and you drive millions of dollars in revenue down the drain, because we have to close our doors, it looks like the city is closed," Monaghan explains to WWLV. "The police are hustling people off of Bourbon Street. When that happens, is it going to be okay with (the city) to collect less revenue in taxes?"
Monaghan was also critical of the suggestion that bar surveillance be connected with a police department live feed. “If I put a camera in your house would you be cool with that?” The 3 a.m. proposal still needs to pass City Council approval before enforcement will begin.
New Orleans isn’t the only place where nightlife has been threatened by new city ordinances. In 2015, bars and restaurants in Charleston banded together to fight a “Late Night Zoning” ordinance that carved two hours off last call in some areas of the city.
• New Orleans, The Party Town, Closing Early? [Off Beat]