A board member of the East Baton Rouge Alcohol Beverage Control office was arrested Monday and is accused of accepting a bribe to drop his opposition to the issuance of a liquor permit, according to an arrest warrant.
Ralphael “Ralph” Johnson, 27, 928 Champaigne Drive, Kenner, was booked with felony extortion and public bribery. The arrest was made by the state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commission.
According to the warrant, Donmoor Food Mart applied for an alcohol license with the ABC this summer, but the license was contested by the neighborhood organization Melrose East Community Association.
Johnson is both a Metro Council-appointed board member with the ABC and the vice president and executive director of the Melrose association.
Johnson, on behalf of the neighborhood association, expressed opposition to issuing the permit because of concerns that there was an over saturation of liquor outlets in the area, according to the warrant.
But last week, Johnson told the owner of the store he would drop his opposition if the business joined the neighborhood association and make a lump sum contribution of $1,500 to the group with monthly contributions of $150, according to the warrant.
The business was also told it would have to agree to limit its alcohol sales to 20 percent of its gross sales per month, open its books to an independent auditor to ensure it stays in compliance and not sell alcohol before 11 a.m. or after 11 p.m., according to the warrant.
The business owner contacted ABC director Chris Cranford about the contract Johnson had proposed, and Cranford referred the matter to ATC for investigation.
“This type of activity undermines the entire permitting process. I commend the local ABC authorities for working with ATC to ensure that we maintain integrity and confidence in issuing permits to sell alcohol and tobacco in Louisiana,” said Troy Hebert, ATC commissioner in a statement.