Problem with 'pop-up clubs'? Councilwoman’s proposal would have targeted Baton Rouge restaurants that become bars or clubs at night _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker speaks in favor of keeping the Baton Rouge Zoo in North Baton Rouge after Schultz and Williams vice president Rick Biddle presented a report to the BREC Commission ,in a meeting Thursday, a study detailing possible locations for the Baton Rouge Zoo.

The Metro Council deleted an item at their Wednesday meeting that would have made restaurants that transition into bars or clubs with bands at night change the way they do business.

The change, proposed by Councilwoman Tara Wicker, would have required restaurants to keep their kitchens open during all hours of operation and prohibit them from charging cover fees to those who enter. The rule would only have affected restaurants, not bars.

Wicker said she wanted the change because restaurants can find loopholes in their liquor licenses where they can turn into bars, or “pop up clubs,” for certain hours. She said she wanted to ensure that restaurants remain in the business of serving food and that they don’t limit who can enter based on age while they are open.

But the Metro Council was not sold. They deleted the item after initially voting to defer it.

Chris Cranford, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board director, said some of the establishments that have used the model Wicker referenced included Mellow Mushroom, Lava Cantina, Quarters and the now-closed Chelsea’s. But he said it was up to the council to decide whether it was problematic for the restaurants to do so.

Metro Council members were skeptical about the idea when it came up at their Wednesday meeting. They pointed out that restaurants already have to meet the requirement that 51 percent of their sales are food.

“I appreciate what we’re trying to accomplish here, but I think there’s a whole lot of negative that could come out of this,” said Councilman Ryan Heck.

Restaurants in Baton Rouge that transition into bars or clubs with bands at night might have to change the way they do business, if the Metro Council changes liquor ordinances for restaurants.

The change, proposed by Councilwoman Tara Wicker, would require restaurants to keep their kitchens open during all hours of operation and prohibit them from charging cover fees to those who enter. The rule would only affect restaurants, not bars.

Wicker said she wanted the change because restaurants can find loopholes in their liquor licenses where they can turn into bars, or “pop up clubs,” for certain hours. She said she wanted to ensure that restaurants remain in the business of serving food and that they don’t limit who can enter based on age while they are open.

Chris Cranford, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board director, said some of the establishments that have used the model Wicker referenced included Mellow Mushroom, Lava Cantina, Quarters and the now-closed Chelsea’s. But he said it was up to the council to decide whether it was problematic for the restaurants to do so.

Metro Council members were skeptical about the idea when it came up at their Wednesday meeting. They pointed out that restaurants already have to meet the requirement that 51 percent of their sales are food.

“I appreciate what we’re trying to accomplish here, but I think there’s a whole lot of negative that could come out of this,” said Councilman Ryan Heck.

The Metro Council deferred voting on the item until its June 22 meeting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated the Metro Council deferred voting on this item and would vote on it at a meeting later in June. The council actually deleted the item later in their meeting after initially voting to defer it. The Advocate regrets the error.