A collaborative task force arrested 29 people last week in a raid on a Boutte bar that was serving patrons without a liquor license. Several of those arrested were charged with the possession of drugs such as crack, bath salts, marijuana and ecstasy.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said his office had received numerous disturbing the peace calls about Helen’s Bar, located at 404 South Kinler St. in Boutte, before his 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.
"My office began to receive multiple complaints of extremely large crowds gathering in and around Helen’s Bar disturbing the peace of the residents and the neighborhood in general," Champagne said.
The Sheriff’s Office determined the complaints were valid after conducting surveillance on the location.
"It appeared to us that numerous regulatory and criminal violations were occurring on and in this premises," Champagne said.
At ten minutes before midnight on Thursday, March 7, the agencies convened on the bar.
"Officers were able to successfully control everyone inside the establishment as well as in the parking lot," Champagne said. "There were no injuries to any officer, suspect or patron during this operation."
Of the 67 people at the bar, 29 were arrested for varying crimes from felony drug possession to being wanted in connection with other crimes committed in St. Charles Parish and other jurisdictions.
Champagne said the compliance check was conducted without a search warrant because local law enforcement, the fire marshal and the Louisiana ATC have the authority to conduct compliance checks and enter alcoholic beverage outlets. He added that the agencies had probable cause to search the bar’s patrons.
"The violations were discovered in the course of the compliance inspection all based upon probable cause giving us the authority to act upon them," Champagne said.
Champagne said he asked the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office to assist in the exercise due to the large number of people expected to be at the bar during the compliance check.
"We do have a good relationship with surrounding sheriff’s offices and we call upon them for manpower assistance when conducting an operation such as this one where large numbers of people are expected to be present," he said. "We do the same for them when they ask for our help."
In all, 124.93 grams of marijuana, 5.89 grams of crack cocaine, 27 doses of ecstasy and 2.36 grams of bath salts were seized during the raid. Detectives with the Sheriff’s Office’s Special Investigations Unit also seized four vehicles after illegal narcotics were found inside of them.
The Louisiana ATC cited bar owner Leroy Hensley for at least 10 different violations and also cited the bartender for not having a current certificate of qualification to dispense alcoholic beverages.
Officials with the state Fire Marshal’s Office also found the bar was not in compliance with fire code. The bar was only rated for 49 patrons, although 67 people were present. Hensley was cited by the Fire Marshal’s Office for seven violations ranging from not having a portable fire extinguisher, failure to provide repairs to emergency lighting, storage of flammables in public places and locking, bolting or obstructing exits.
"The Fire Marshall’s Office did reset the capacity of occupants at 33 mainly due to the number of exits the establishment has," Champagne said.
Champagne said the operation was a necessity.
"This bar had become a real nuisance for this neighborhood. We could not tolerate, and won’t tolerate, such blatant violations of law," he said.
For a full list of arrestees from the operation see the arrest reports on page 4A.