Maurice’s Board of Aldermen will decide Wednesday whether the village’s three watering holes will be required to roll back their 3 a.m. closing times by an hour.
The proposed change is the latest effort by Maurice Police Chief Warren Rost to align the village’s drinking hours with the rest of the area where bars close at 2 a.m.
“We’re a little island here that invites people to come and drink for that extra hour,” Rost said of the Vermilion Parish village. “I would like to see those people stay where they are.”
For almost three decades, Maurice’s bars have been in business until 3 a.m. even after all of Vermilion Parish and its neighbors in Lafayette Parish began closing their bars an hour earlier.
Mayor Wayne Theriot, who was an alderman in 1986 when the 3 a.m. ordinance was adopted, said the time was chosen as a compromise between those who wanted bars to close at 2 a.m. and others who wanted the time to be 4 a.m.
Before then, bar owners could keep their businesses open at all hours.
“Since that time, our 3 o’clock (closing time) has been working for us,” Theriot said. “Are there issues between 2 and 3? Yes. But those same issues would be happening between 1 and 2.”
But Rost, who’s been chief since 1982, said his main concern is over the late-night patrons who may travel to Maurice for the benefit of that extra hour, but then must drive home, usually to residences outside of the village.
“The main issue is safety,” Rost said. “Those people already have liquor in their systems, and they’re driving on our streets. They come, drink one or two beers, and they’ve gotta drive back.”
Maurice has six police officers — one more should be hired by the end of February — and none on reserve. Two people work the day shift, one works at night, and the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office provides support when needed, Rost said.
The department does not issue OWIs unless officers are working a crash with alcohol involved. The small department relies on State Police help to patrol the area for drunken drivers.
“We do not have the manpower to do that here,” Rost said.
City Bar Maurice owner Matt Trahan, however, said his business has not seen a regular, late-night influx of patrons in about a decade.
“The laws have changed. People are being a little bit smarter. They’re not driving as far,” Trahan said. “We just don’t see that anymore.”
In recent years, the bar owners also began policing their customers by lodging bans against troublemakers — patrons arrested for stealing or fighting for example — from all three bars in town, Trahan said.
“We don’t have troubles anymore,” Trahan said.
Rost last attempted to change the ordinance in 2012, but the three-member Board of Aldermen voted against the proposal. He said he hopes with two new members voting this time, the outcome will be different.
Theriot remained neutral on the issue, but he said the council will have to take into consideration all of its constituents when it makes a decision.
“It’s an issue that is emotional, but it’s also something that they have to look at, because not only do they represent the citizens, but they have to represent the businesses,” Theriot said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.