Council OKs eliminating exemptions to the curfew
After deputies were called twice on the same morning – 3 a.m. and then 4 a.m. – to a major fight at a local bar following a July 4 celebration, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne decided it was time to end any exemption to the curfew.
“It seemed no coincidence to me that we had to respond to such incidents on one of the few nights where bars could remain open all night,” Champagne said. “Common sense dictates that there is no justifiable reason why we should allow all night drinking on these nights even on major holidays. If anyone must drink all night and after 2 a.m., it is probably best that they go home to do it.”
Champagne said he spoke with a couple of bar owners who indicated they had no problem with the change, which the council approved unanimously at last Monday’s meeting.
At Boomerang Bar & Pub in Destrehan, Manager Kathy Hearn agreed with the sheriff.
“You get some serious drunks and stupid people after 2 … so we kind of leave it like it is,” Hearn said of closing at midnight on weekdays and on weekends at 2 a.m. “We’re right by the police department so they make sure we close at 2 a.m.”
Views have changed about the curfew since it was established in 1983, according to the sheriff.
“It was quite controversial at the time as an impingement on freedom,” he said. “It has proven over time to be not so much a problem.”
When the ordinance was passed, it allowed five exceptions– Christmas eve (Dec. 24), Christmas day (Dec. 25), New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31), New Year’s Day (Jan. 1) and Fourth of July (July 4) – that allowed bars to say open for 24 hours.
Overall, Champagne said the parish’s bar owners have been responsible business people with few issues or disturbances.
But, the July 4 bar fight, where deputies were called to the scene twice, raised lingering concerns on multiple levels about safety for the public and deputies.
“The incident was widely broadcast on social media and was very ugly with one of the participants being seriously injured with a large crowd gathered,” he said. “It seemed obvious that many of the persons involved were intoxicated”
Champagne said he considered it no coincidence that his office was responding to these incidents on one of the few nights where bars could remain open all night so he asked Parish President Larry Cochran to propose an ordinance to eliminate the exemptions to the curfew and require all bars to close by 2 a.m.
“This is not just a matter of preventing drunken fights,” Champagne said. “Deputies’ safety is also an issue when we have to respond to such incidents. There is also the factor of seriously drunk drivers taking to the roads after drinking all night, putting public safety at risk.”
At Fat Boys Retreat in Luling, owner Bruce Pitre said he agreed with the change. Bartender Jennifer Folse also agreed with the curfew and added, “because nothing good happens after 2.”