Facing fines and either a suspension or revocation of their liquor license, the owners of a Lafayette nightclub have until Friday to draft a plan on how they’ll stop marijuana smokers from lighting up inside their Jefferson Street business.
During a special hearing on Monday for Southland Entertainment, Inc. — the company behind b.e.d. Niteclub & Lounge — undercover narcotics agents, a former security guard for the club and one of the club’s co-owners testified to witnessing patrons smoke in the club.
Commissioner Troy Hebert, of the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, warned b.e.d. co-owner Justin Lee to expect “strict penalties” when he rules on the matter and ordered him to provide a detailed plan, by Friday, on how he expects to curb drug use at the establishment.
“The last thing ATC ever wants to do is close a business,” Hebert said, noting the club is not a problem offender when it comes to alcohol sales to minors. “But I’m not going to allow an operation to continue where these types of violations exist on such a blatant level.”
Aside from a limited medical marijuana measure passed this year — which will eventually allow patients suffering from three specific diseases to consume a nonsmokable form of the plant as a treatment — marijuana in Louisiana is considered an illegal Schedule I drug.
In the Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force’s third visit to the club this summer, in August, an agent issued two citations against b.e.d. after he said he witnessed two men near the DJ booth smoking blunts, or marijuana rolled inside cigar paper.
The discipline comes after the ATC in 2013 suspended the club’s operations for 60 days — with all but seven days suspended — after two separate citations that year for marijuana use inside the club. But part of that agreement, which included a reduced fine from $10,000 to $5,000, was that the establishment would become completely smoke-free in an effort to curb marijuana use, according to testimony at the Monday hearing.
As managing owner of the club, Lee said at the hearing the “zero-tolerance” policies he enacted dwindled his business so drastically that he eventually started letting patrons smoke tobacco cigarettes on the patio and, later, inside the club. And when he spotted someone smoking marijuana, he’d give them a warning, sometimes throwing people out and sometimes bringing them directly to police for not complying.
“We’ve been trying everything we can,” Lee said.
But Hebert said even allowing tobacco smoke at the club without the ATC’s consent proves a violation of their agreement.
Another part of the club’s 2013 agreement with ATC specified not only a total smoking ban at the bar but that it would contract security firm Mosely Management to enforce the rules.
Of that firm, Reginald Mosely testified on Monday that he quit working at the club because he felt “tired of the downtown scene” and had trouble enforcing the rules with club promoters — contractors hired to bring people into the bar — who said those rules were killing the club’s business.
“It’s hard to do that when the hype man himself has a blunt in his mouth,” Mosely said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.