BAKER — After weeks of delays, the Baker City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday night to realign a city ordinance to state law governing the location of establishments selling alcoholic beverages.

Council members Charles Vincent, Doris Alexander and Brenda Jackson voted in favor of the ordinance. Pete Heine voted against it.

Glenda Bryant was absent.

Heine cited worries about lawsuits that have been filed against the city as his reason for opposing changing the law.

The Baker School Board has sued the city over the Baker Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s Sept. 5 decision to grant a liquor license to RaceTrac for a potential gas station on La. 19 at Groom Road, just steps from Baker High’s football stadium parking lot.

First Baptist Church of Baker, which is across the street from the property currently leased by RaceTrac, along with John A. Jarreau Properties, which owns the Texaco gas station on La. 19 and Coolidge, have also filed suit over the same decision.

Since a board cannot be sued, the suits were filed against the city, Jessica Starns, one of the lawyers representing the church and the Texaco station, said Tuesday night.

In January, the City Council changed Baker’s law, allowing the minimum 300 feet distance between an establishment selling alcohol in the city and churches or schools to be measured from door to door rather than property line to property line, in effect loosening the requirement.

During the Aug. 8 City Council meeting, Alexander attempted to introduce an ordinance returning Baker to the law the city had in place before January, making it again the same as state law.

Although the council voted in favor, Alexander failed to provide a written ordinance proposal at the time of the vote, violating stipulations of the Baker Home Rule Charter, city attorney Ken Fabre said.

At the Council’s Aug. 22 meeting, it again voted to introduce the now written ordinance proposal, but tabled it during their next meeting on Sept. 12.

Starns has argued that state law says the measurement should be from the corner of the liquor-selling establishment to the property line of the church or school, which would make it more difficult for a business to obtain a liquor license.

RaceTrac claims the gas station it wants to build would be 375 feet from Baker High, measured door to door, and the ABC Board accepted that measurement when making its decision.

On Tuesday night, Starns entreated the City Council to pass the ordinance returning the city’s law to the stipulations of the state law, saying Baker’s January ordinance was illegal since it violated state law.

“I spent years working for the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and I’ve seen this played out all over the state. I encourage you to adopt this law so that going forward you won’t have problems with lawsuits,” Starns said.

“A judge will determine if the (January) law is legal. This is not a court of law,” Fabre, the city attorney, retorted.

Asked by Heine whether the council’s action could affect the outcome of the lawsuit, Fabre declined to comment.

“All I can say is that the state of the (Baker) law at that time is what (the ABC Board) was bound by when it made its decision,” Fabre said.