Let's cram all these folks into the bars on Bourbon! (Photo: MotorcycleUSA.com, Photo: Kevin Wing.

New Orleans, The Party Town, Closing Early?

New Orleans is a late-night town, always has been. When other cities get their night life going at nine or 10 p.m., New Orleans sometimes doesn’t start to really percolate until 11 p.m., midnight and into the wee hours of the morning (or during Jazz Fest after sunrise). We are a late night kind of town. We are the ultimate Party City.

The newest proposal to quell crime issues is a proviso that the streets would have to be cleared by 3 a.m. Not that partiers would have to go home at that time (God forbid we ever institute a “last call” in New Orleans!), but they would have to move from the street into a bar or club.

How will this cut down on crime?

What kind of impact will this have on New Orleans appeal as a city where anything goes, party all night? How will this plan impact the city’s tourism, and the businesses that “make” New Orleans a music and party city?

I asked Earl Bernhardt, who with partner Pam Fortner, owns Tropical Isle, the Funky Pirate and many other bars on Bourbon. “The problem is during a normal week it wouldn’t be terrible, but on weekends and during special events, it would. 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. And what happens to all the people we don’t want in our places: the scam artists, the gutter punks, the thugs?”

Bernhardt added “The ‘party city’ of America will be no longer. All of these other cities are letting people drink outdoors and extending their hours; they are trying to compete with us. This is the most devastating news I’ve heard in a long time. You work for almost 33 years to build up your business, pay taxes, and then they want to tear down everything you’ve achieved. There’s got to be some room for compromise.”

There’s also an issue on Bourbon Street with businesses not being able to shut their doors per the direction of the city Fire Marshall. So how will they be able to shut the doors on Bourbon Street? Will the bars and clubs then be in violation of fire capacity laws?

Jesse Paige, who owns the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street said, “This is a big issue. I have no problem with closing doors at 3 a.m. But we have shows booked at 3 a.m. during Jazz Fest. Where are these customers to see the show supposed to go? Our businesses pay a lot of taxes and support the city’s tourism base. I just don’t understand how can the city can consider cutting off such an important source of revenue .

“The city needs to look at the victims—that’s not only the people who are victims of violence, the victims are also us, the businesses. If they would just make a stricter gun laws in the city…if you get caught with an unregistered gun there should be a minimum, strict sentence. I think you should get stricter on gun laws.

“I’ll tell you this: the biggest problem I’d have would be the government cameras [the plan wants all businesses’ surveillance cameras to feed into a centralized NOPD center]. They can’t tap into our cameras in privately-owned businesses. It’s intrusive. We have cameras for the safety of my customers and staff, not so that the government can survey a private business.

“I really don’t think they have a clue on how to solve this problem. Guns carried by people with licenses are not my worry. It’s the unlicensed gun holders that are the problem. I’m a big Landrieu supporter, but I can’t support this idea. They need to go back to drawing board and come up with another solution that would involve all the businesses’ input too.”

“The Mayor and the Chief of Police need to figure something else out. We can’t support this plan,” said Paige.

Do you think clearing the streets at 3 a.m. will help or hurt New Orleans?

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