A proposal to allow alcohol sales at BREC parks cruised through the Metro Council on Wednesday with only two abstentions and little dissent.
In a separate vote, the Metro Council appointed Kenneth Perret to serve the remainder of Thomas Govan’s term on the board of the Capital Area Transit System.
The proposal to allow alcohol sales at public parks creates a special class of parish alcohol license for BREC, which operates the East Baton Rouge Parish Park system. Previously, parish ordinance permitted alcohol only at certain BREC facilities under certain conditions.
Under the new ordinance, BREC facilities will be able to apply for a “Class P” license and can serve alcohol between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight, seven days per week.
BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said earlier this week that only three golf courses would operate regular alcohol sales in concert with their clubhouse restaurants. They are Santa Maria, where alcohol already is sold, and Beaver Creek and Dumas Memorial.
BREC intends to secure licenses for about 26 other venues, McKnight said, but alcohol would be offered at those facilities only in connection with special events.
“We are working in every possible way to make sure we are not opening up this community to additional problems,” McKnight told the Metro Council.
Only a handful of members of the public spoke on the issue at the council meeting.
“Is the bottom line money and revenue?” Pat Rusk asked. “And if so, what is that teaching our children? We have a high crime rate, and it is tied to drugs and alcohol.”
McKnight has said the change will help BREC grow revenue but has provided no specific projections for revenue growth.
A second speaker, Donna Andre, said she wanted to put her concerns about Jefferson Highway Park on the record. She said houses are located very close to the park’s rental facility and she is concerned about late night events disturbing residents.
Andre added, however, that, “Ms. McKnight has been very positive toward us about improvements to the park. We are not going to voice any particular objection to this.”
McKnight said in the case of Jefferson Highway Park, no event would be permitted to continue past 10 p.m.
Several of the Metro Council members praised McKnight before the vote.
“You have absolutely covered all your bases,” Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said.
Councilman Buddy Amoroso praised McKnight for submitting a “well-thought-out policy” and Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle told McKnight “my hat’s off to you.”
Ten Metro Council members voted for the measure; Ronnie Edwards and Tara Wicker abstained.
McKnight said she hopes to begin offering alcohol at BREC facilities by mid-May “at the latest.”
Last month, the BREC Commission passed a comprehensive alcohol policy governing use at its facilities.
Under that policy, alcohol would still be prohibited at J.S. Clark Golf Course, Liberty Lagoon Water Park, all swimming pools and Perkins Road Extreme Sports Park.
The vote to appoint a replacement for Thomas Govan on the CATS board came down strictly along party lines, with the council’s seven Republicans voting for Kenneth Perret and five Democrats supporting Pastor Errol Domingue.
The two were part of a 14-candidate pool of potential replacements, and both received five votes in the first round of voting. Perret was chosen in a runoff vote.
Perret, who attended the meeting, exchanged warm words with CATS CEO Brian Marshall after the vote was tallied.
“I have a lot of experience in transportation,” Perret said in an interview.
He noted that he has worked during his career for the Federal Highway Administration and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
Perret, whose term will expire at the end of this year, said he supported the CATS tax that was approved in April but did not live in an area of the parish that was eligible to vote for it. He said his objective on the board will be to “make sure the people who are using CATS are getting good service.”