A curfew in East Baton Rouge parish is changing hours for all kinds of businesses, affecting everything from available flights at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport to how late casinos, neighborhood restaurants and bars are open.
While other parishes like Livingston imposed curfews as early as Friday, the decision was a slower and more controversial one in East Baton Rouge. It came to fruition Tuesday only after Sheriff Sid Gautreaux bypassed Mayor-President Kip Holden and received an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards to put a curfew in place.
Reports of looting cropping up in flooded areas after people evacuated for drier land prompt…
Curfews look set to remain in effect for at least one more night in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes, officials said, while Ascension Parish lifted that curfew Wednesday. The East Baton Rouge sheriff's office has said the curfew would not apply to people who are on the roads for a "legitimate purpose" like going to work.
But businesses say the curfew has already had ripple effects.
American Airlines has cut the number of flights they are sending in and out of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport so that passengers and flight crews are not at risk to being on the roads during curfew hours. Assistant Director of Aviation Ralph Hennessy said American Airlines now has two fewer flights landing during nights at the airport, which means two fewer flights leaving in the mornings.
He estimated that it results in around 200 fewer passengers, and he said the airport also misses out on revenue they would usually earn based on how many flights land there. Hennessy said Delta and United Airlines have not adjusted their schedules.
Metro Councilman John Delgado, who owns several bars in downtown Baton Rouge, sent Gautreaux a letter Wednesday asking him to lift the curfew. Delgado argued it was unfair to limit the activities of everyone in the parish based on the looting arrests of 14 people over Monday and Tuesday in East Baton Rouge.
But Gautreaux said the curfew is for the good of all people.
"My number one priority is ensuring life and property," he said in a statement. "I realize a curfew may inconvenience some, but we have numerous businesses and homes that are left vulnerable, some devastated by flood waters, while they sit empty with no power."
During the first night of the East Baton Rouge curfew Wednesday, seven people were arrested in the parish but none of them were for looting, Sheriff's spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
“We’ve asked the deputies to use their best judgment to make sure that someone’s not out for criminal activity,” Hicks said.
Delgado said a curfew likely will not be a deterrent for crime because people willing to break into homes and stores to steal would not be fazed by breaking a curfew.
Much of south Louisiana shifted into post-flood mode Tuesday, with residents trickling back …
"They effectively closed down every single bar and restaurant in this parish," Delgado said in an interview. "Grocery stores, gas stations. It's just ridiculous; it's overkill."
A number of bar owners echoed Delgado.
Mark Dennis, the owner of Churchill's Premium Cigars and Elixirs on Jefferson Highway, said his business has not been able to fully open since the heavy rains started Friday. He said some of his employees lost everything and begged to work double shifts, but they could not because of the curfew forcing them to close early.
"Even though we had people begging to work, we couldn't allow it," Dennis said. "I had somebody crying on the phone to me, what can I do? People want to work, they need to work. Everybody's trying to do the right thing."
Dennis said the curfew needs to be looked at through a business lens instead of only from a law enforcement standpoint.
Anthony Gallo, owner of the Cadillac Cafe on Bluebonnet Boulevard, estimated that 90 percent of his business comes after 10 p.m.
"It just seems like the service industry has been forgotten about in this deal," he said, adding that City Hall has not put forward incentives to help business owners who are losing revenue because of the curfew.
Gautreaux said that people should be able to enjoy bars before 10 p.m.
"Those that would like to have a drink at a bar can do so before 10 p.m. until the curfew is lifted," he said in his statement. "We have people and businesses that have lost everything. Those that have been devastated by this disaster and the safety of residents and first responders is my primary concern."
Gallo said Cadillac Cafe's insurance policy helped them recoup lost income when a curfew was imposed in 2008 after Hurricane Gustav. But he said the policy probably will not kick in because the floods -- though widespread and devastating -- did not happen as part of a named hurricane or storm.
Darin Adams, who owns Reggie's in Tigerland, said this week as LSU students move in and prepare for classes to start should have been one of their busiest of the year.
LSU, which sits in the center of a region enveloped by water and chaos, strived to offer stu…
He said college students want to blow off steam and are tired of being cooped up from the floods, but now they can't. He also said many of the staffers at Reggie's are students whose apartments flooded.
"They lost everything and now they can't even work," Adams said.
Baton Rouge's casinos, which are normally 24-hour ventures, also had to operate on limited hours because of the curfew. Both L'Auberge Casino and Hotel and the Hollywood Casino closed Tuesday night and opened Wednesday morning.
"At this time we are focusing our efforts on taking care of our team members who have been impacted by the severe flooding in South Louisiana," said L'Auberge Vice President of Marketing Kimberly Ginn in a statement.
The Belle of Baton Rouge and the Hollywood Casino did not respond to questions about how the curfew affected their business.
Gautreaux said the sheriff's office will be re-evaluating East Baton Rouge and the need for a curfew each day. He said he will lift the curfew as soon as it is safe.
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he hoped to be able to lift the curfew Thursday, if water receded in the parish’s southern reaches.
Tangipahoa Parish, which was also hard hit, only had a curfew for one night, officials said.