A series of five public meetings beginning next week will explore the possibility of lifting the 13-year-old ban on new bars in downtown Lafayette.
The City-Parish Council imposed the ban in 2003, when a spate of new nightclubs moving in along Jefferson Street raised concerns about the downtown thoroughfare becoming Lafayette’s version of Bourbon Street.
Only downtown properties with bar permits when the ban passed can continue to operate as bars.
The restriction on new bars has been criticized for serving as a barrier to a more vibrant entertainment district and for establishing a de facto monopoly by limiting bars only to certain properties.
The City-Parish Council voted earlier this year to revisit the ban and to possibly allow bars as a “conditional use” under the downtown zoning code, opening the door for new bars as long as they meet certain requirements and receive the blessing of the council and the city-parish Zoning Commission.
No decision has been made on the specifics, and the upcoming public meetings are to gather input from residents and business owners.
There has long been talk of revisiting the downtown bar ban, but the idea gained traction last year when the popular downtown music venue Artmosphere Bistro faced possible closure.
Artmosphere, which is not eligible for a bar permit because of the 2003 ban, sells alcohol under a restaurant liquor permit but has struggled to keep food sales above 50 percent to meet the permit requirements.
The meetings are set for:
7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center
9 a.m. Friday at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center
Noon Friday in the second-floor conference room at the Main Library downtown
6 p.m. April 7 at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center.