For the fourth time in six months, the Metro Council will consider changing parish ordinances to make it easier to sell and purchase alcohol.
This time, the proposed amendment to the East Baton Rouge Parish ordinance would create a special class of license to allow the Parks and Recreation Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge to sell alcohol at select facilities such as golf courses and rental halls.
“From a customer perspective, it’s extremely important,” BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said of the ordinance Monday. “It’s going to be a huge opportunity for citizens of this parish to use facilities available to them for special events.”
McKnight pointed to the ballroom at BREC’s headquarters on Florida Boulevard as a facility that could benefit from extra usage.
“People are always asking about it,” she said. “It would be wonderful to rent that.”
McKnight said that she expected that allowing alcohol would boost revenue, but declined to estimate how much.
“Are we planning on huge amounts of revenue? I doubt it,” she said. “Hopefully, we will see some opportunities there, but to be able to tell you what that amount would be, it would just be a wild guess.”
Alcohol is permitted under specific conditions at certain BREC facilities — the Baton Rouge Fairgrounds, the Baton Rouge Gallery, Magnolia Mound Plantation, the Baton Rouge Zoo, Goldsby Field and Santa Maria Golf Course.
To allow alcohol at other facilities requires a waiver approved by both BREC’s governing board and the Metro Council.
The waiver process is so time-consuming — often taking months — that it deters potential customers, McKnight said.
Two Metro Council members contacted by The Advocate pointed to the waiver process as a reason for supporting the amendment.
“They come to us anyway, when there is a golf tournament or they have special function, they come to us for a waiver,” Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said. “I have never seen us not give it to them, so what’s the difference?”
Fellow Councilman Trae Welch agreed.
“I don’t know of a time that BREC has ever asked for a waiver and it’s been denied,” Welch said. “I think it makes absolute sense.”
Another councilman, Buddy Amoroso, praised BREC for what he called a “well-thought-out policy.”
Under a policy on alcohol sales passed last month by the BREC Commission, alcohol would be sold at all BREC golf courses except for J.S. Clark, where BREC hosts a junior golf program. Other sites where alcohol would be sold include: The Baton Rouge Gallery, the Baton Rouge Zoo, Bluebonnet Nature Center, the Burbank Soccer Complex, the Central Community Sports Park, several tennis centers and Olympia Stadium during certain events.
Beaver Creek, Santa Maria and Dumas golf courses would sell alcohol in their clubhouse restaurants, McKnight said. Alcohol at all the other facilities would be sold only in connection with special events, she said. Food would always be served in conjunction with alcohol, she said.
Alcohol sales would be prohibited at Liberty Lagoon water park and all pools, according to BREC’s policy.
Under the amendment before the Metro Council, BREC facilities will be allowed to serve from 10 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Also, the ordinance proposal contains a special waiver for BREC that allows them to sell alcohol within 300 feet of a public playground, something prohibited for other classes of license.
In October, the Metro Council relaxed the parish’s blue laws, which restricted Sunday sales in bars, restaurants and stores. That same month, another item to allow casinos to sell alcohol 24 hours per day was withdrawn before it was voted upon. Earlier this month, the council approved a similar measure for casinos.