HAMMOND — Establishments that serve only alcoholic drinks will remain shuttered in Hammond on Sundays after the City Council decided Tuesday, on a split vote, against adopting an ordinance that would have changed the years-old law.
Despite pleas from a long procession of speakers advocating a Sunday open bar policy, the council voted 3-2 to reject the measure. Voting to open the bars’ doors on Sundays were Councilmen Lemar Marshall and Mike Williams, while Johnny Blount, Jason Hood and Janie Carter Beard voted no.
Marshall, who brought the proposed ordinance before the council, argued that the case for allowing bars to do business on Sundays is a logical one. He pointed out that restaurants with bars in their premises are allowed to sell alcohol all day on Sundays and patrons who choose to drink in such establishments do not have to purchase food. He noted that several such “restaurant bars” operate in Hammond every Sunday.
The proposal found favor with about a dozen residents who chose to speak to the council on the issue. Cecilia Gianobile said residents of legal drinking age should have the opportunity to choose whether or not to visit a bar and consume alcoholic beverages on a Sunday. She said existing ordinances deny those individuals the right to make that choice.
Terry Lynn Smith, director of the Downtown Development District, said her organization endorsed the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays because it would add to commerce in the downtown area and would bring more visitors to the heart of the city where a number of bars are located.
Todd Delaune, operator of Red, White and Brew on Hammond’s main street, said he is a responsible vendor who tries to bring high-quality beverages to Hammond. He said he believes bar owners are being discriminated against by not being allowed to open on Sundays.
“The issue here is fairness,” Delaune said. “I estimate that I can make about 15 percent more in profits if you allow me to open on Sundays. It isn’t fair that restaurant bars, and the bars in nearby Ponchatoula, can serve alcohol on Sundays but I cannot. I’m not looking for any special treatment, just equal treatment.”
Tina Latino, who operates a bar downtown, pointed out that much of the Sunday alcohol consumption is tied to sports and that restaurant bars can cater to patrons who enjoy drinking while watching sporting events, but she cannot. Further, Latino said that only persons 21 years old or older are allowed in her establishment while children of all ages are allowed in restaurant bars.
Louise Bostic offered the lone voice Tuesday night against allowing the bars to open on Sundays. She said allowing bars to open on Sundays would tarnish Hammond’s “family city’ image.
Other than Marshall, the council members said little during the public hearing. Carter Beard, however, pointedly asked one of the pro-Sunday sales speakers, “You have six days a week to drink, why do you need a seventh?”
After the meeting, Marshall said he is disappointed the council did not adopt the measure.
“To me, it was simple logic, and I regret that the council could not see the simplicity of what the ordinance would have done,” he said.
Marshall encourages those who favor bars opening on Sundays to circulate a petition calling for measure to be put on a future ballot.
“I’m confident that if the issue is put to the voters, they will vote in favor of allowing bars to open on Sundays,” he said.