Sheriff says Boutte barís forced closure has reduced crime

June 13, 2014 at 9:24 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Sheriff says Boutte barís forced closure has reduced crime
A Boutte bar that was raided last year for not having a liquor license has been denied a zoning variance that had allowed it to operate for decades in a residential area.

Although those who appeared in front of the St. Charles Parish Planning Board of Commissioners were nearly unanimous in their support for the reopening, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said the closure of the bar after a March 2013 raid that resulted in 29 arrests has reduced crime in the area.

“Undoubtedly crime has decreased in the immediate area,” Champagne said. †

The site in question is that of the former Helen’s Bar, located at 404 S. Kinler St. in Boutte, which was shuttered after the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, along with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana Alcohol Tobacco Control (ATC), Probation and Parole and state Fire Marshal’s Office, did a compliance check on the premises after they discovered the bar was serving alcohol on an expired liquor license.

Champagne said when Helen’s Bar was in operation, it was a magnet for criminals.

“The bar had become a haven for drug addicts, drug traffickers, alcoholics as well as convicted felons. Neighborhood complaints were constant,” he said. “We made all those arrests and closed the bar down by not issuing a renewal on the liquor license. The neighbors were ecstatic and thankful.”

Champagne’s statements are backed up by the fact that law enforcement authorities arrested 29 of the 67 patrons in the bar during the March raid. They also seized 24.93 grams of marijuana, 5.89 grams of crack cocaine, 27 doses of ecstasy and 2.36 grams of bath salts.

Shortly after the bar was shuttered, a group wanting to reopen the location approached Champagne about getting a liquor license, but the Sheriffs Office denied the license because they did not receive all necessary information.

“They failed to comply with our request that they provide complete and accurate documentation of what people/entity would be owning as well as running the bar. So, I denied the application,” he said.

More than a year after the raid, 70 nearby residents signed a petition supporting the reopening of a new business, Blacke’s Corner Bar, at the location. However, to reopen the location as a bar in a residential neighborhood it required a zoning variance from the Parish Council. The property had lost its previous zoning variance because the bar had been closed for more than six months.

Those in favor of reopening the bar provided an overwhelming show of support in a Planning Board of Commissioners meeting.

Yolanda Gilbert, of Boutte, said the bar had been in operation throughout her entire life and she did not see why another bar couldn’t open in the same location.

“It has been opened for decades and I just hate to see it shut down for good,” she said.

Ryan Robinson, of Boutte, said the location is convenient for those living in the area who do not want to travel to go to a bar.

“I don’t want to go all the way to Hahnville when I can get a drink by my house, or go all the way to Killona or Luling. It’s more convenient for the people in the neighborhood,” he said.

In addition to the March 2013 raid, Planning Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Booth said he knew of at least one other instance in which numerous arrests occurred on the premises.

“On one particular night every patrol unit on the West Bank responded to a disturbance there and made 17 arrests,” he said.

Brad Meyer, speaking on behalf of the property owner, said those instances are rare.

“That which occurred, which was one incident, it was one incident over decades, literally decades of operation. Also, we are a different set of people, we are not the people who previously operated the bar,” he said.

When the issue progressed to a public hearing in front of the Parish Council last week, only one community member went on record as being against the reopening of the location as a bar.

However, Champagne said he had heard confidentially from several residents who wanted it to remain closed.

“I have received messages from neighbors who did not want the bar to reopen. They did not want to identify themselves publicly for fear that the same characters who frequented the bar would be back.† While there may not have been a public turnout against this bar opening again, I have no doubt the nearby residents were totally against it,” he said.

Councilman Terrell Wilson vociferously opposed the rezoning and reopening of the bar, adding that he had only received calls from those in opposition.

“I have heard about enough as I want to hear about Blacke’s Corner Bar,” he said.

The Parish Council voted unanimously against rezoning the property.

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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