Culture vs. enforcement: Could SB 140 change our City Administration’s priorities?

At its April 2013 Board meeting, the French Quarter Management District presented a draft copy of a flyer titled, “Do You Know It’s Illegal To: French Quarter Businesses” detailing the existing laws and ordinances applicable to businesses operating in the French Quarter (complete with citations!). This document, although still in draft form pending verification and final approval, is an eye-opening compendium of the existing ordinances and laws applying to businesses — and particularly “Alcohol Beverage Outlets” (ABOs or bars) operating in the Vieux Carré.

(For example: it’s illegal to “Allow an employee or any other person on the premises of a Class A ABO, including a doorway, to expose unclothed or in attire any portion of the cleft of the buttocks OR a female breast below the top of the areola. Law differs for live entertainers while onstage. La. R.S. 26:290 (B)(1) & (2), (D), (E); Sec. 110-157, 434, 435″ — who knew?!)

In April 2012, the French Quarter Management District also produced a similar — albeit more generalized — flyer detailing the ordinances and laws relative to individuals/citizens/residents: “Do You Know It’s Illegal To: ILLEGAL In the French Quarter.” This document is also reportedly currently being updated with minor revisions.

While both of these documents are interesting, it’s common knowledge that our City Administration’s emphasis on enforcement of such ordinances and laws is inconsistent at best. This could be, in part, because Louisiana law currently limits the amount of fines assessed at the municipal level to a maximum of just $500.

However, Senator J.P. Morrell (D-Dist. 3) is introducing Senate Bill 140 as part of the 2013 Legislative Session (its digest states as follows):

Present law mandates the maximum penalty to be imposed for violation of any parish ordinance is $500 and imprisonment of 30 days in the parish jail.

Proposed law provides for the city of New Orleans to establish a maximum penalty for violations of any parish ordinance as codified in the city code of ordinances at $5,000 and imprisonment of six months in the parish jail.

Effective August 1, 2013.

If SB 140 is passed and our City’s Administration figures out that there’s a possible new revenue stream from stepping up enforcement efforts, these odd little laws that are already on the books might become surprisingly — and possibly unexpectedly — significant. The passage of this bill will likely mean that our city’s officials will pursue more aggressive — and lucrative — fines for numerous violations that are currently possibly considered to be too costly to routinely enforce.

While I am generally in favor of this proposed bill, I am also concerned that it could have unforeseen consequences… particularly when one considers the enforcement efforts that have already been identified as “priority” issues by our elected officials.

Keep in mind, too, that the impact of this proposed bill will affect all of Orleans Parish — not just the French Quarter. Heads up, everybody!

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2 thoughts on “Culture vs. enforcement: Could SB 140 change our City Administration’s priorities?

  1. I don’t think I like the floodlight ordinance :( if it wasn’t for decorative and security lighting in much of the FQ it could be an even more dangerous place at night.

  2. Reportedly some who are paying attention to this particular bill fear that the alcohol lobby will attempt to influence this legislation (given its potential impact on ABOs). And since this is a fiscal year, the alcohol lobby might have an even bigger influence than might be true otherwise.

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