A convenience store owner suing the city-parish over a temporary liquor license moratorium in Old South Baton Rouge will be allowed to continue selling alcohol for at least the next 27 days, a judge ruled Thursday.
The Metro Council approved a 60-day moratorium on June 8 on liquor licenses in Old South Baton Rouge, at the request of Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who said she is concerned about too many liquor outlets in the area.
Caught in the middle of the process was Wayel Abdulrab, owner of Southside Supermarket on Thomas H. Delpit Drive. He was scheduled to receive a permanent liquor license the day the moratorium was approved.
Abdulrab filed the suit against the city-parish June 10, and was granted a temporary restraining order against the city-parish in its issuance of the liquor ban.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control office issued Abdulrab a waiver on June 23 to the moratorium, contingent upon approval of the Metro Council, which won’t meet again until July 27.
Abdulrab’s attorney Chris Alexander argues that the moratorium is unconstitutional and violates equal protection laws, because it targets a narrow area of the parish for alleged over-saturation of liquor stores, while other areas of the parish also suffer from the same problems.
Assistant Parish Attorney Joseph Scott disputes violations of unconstitutionality and equal protection.
“Anybody trying to open a liquor store in this location at this time falls under the same moratorium,” he said. “It happens to be these guys, but if their neighbors try to do the same thing they’re in the same boat.”
Judge Todd Hernandez extended the restraining order until the next time the Metro Council meets, which allows Abdulrab’s store to continue alcohol sales.
He said if the Metro Council approves the waiver, then the lawsuit becomes moot.
“We are confident that the Metro Council will see the absolute unfairness of failing to ratify this waiver,” Alexander said in an email.
One Metro Council member who will not be supporting the waiver is Wicker.
She said she and other members are still moving forward with studying ways to limit liquor outlets in low-income neighborhoods.