The largest bar in downtown Lafayette can no longer be a bar, according to the city-parish government.
The city-parish Planning, Zoning and Development Department this week put The Plaza Downtown on notice that it must immediately cease operations.
The manager has no plans on walking away, though he is uncertain what the next step will be.
At issue is a 2003 ban on bars in downtown Lafayette.
It exempted buildings used as bars at the time but stipulated any building vacant for more than one year would lose the exemption.
The Plaza Downtown opened in June in the two-story building at 314 Jefferson St. once occupied by Karma Nightclub & Lounge, but city-parish officials now say the new club never should have been granted a liquor permit or a certificate of occupancy.
“We found out fairly recently that they went longer than a year without selling any alcohol,” said City-Parish Zoning Manager Jim Parker.
Karma was often at odds with state regulators. Just before the club closed, regulators had been pushing for improvements after a state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control investigation into drug use, alcohol sales to minors and violence at the club.
The building has since been leased to new operators, who contracted earlier this year with Shannon Wilkerson to manage the club.
Wilkerson, a veteran of the bar scene in Lafayette who has owned or managed several clubs, said Wednesday he knew little about the city’s decision to revoke The Plaza Downtown’s bar status.
“I’m still looking into it and trying to get more information on what the history is,” Wilkerson said. “I don’t know how this has surfaced after several months of operations.”
Parker said he was limited in what he could say about the city’s decision, other than to confirm that staff came across additional information after the bar had already received the proper permits to open.
Karma had closed by January 2014, and more than 12 months had lapsed before the building briefly opened as a bar in April 2015 before The Plaza Downtown opened in June 2015.
But it is unclear how the building had been used, if at all, in the intervening months.
“I just got involved in this operation a few months ago,” Wilkerson said.
The notice sent by city-parish officials threatens fines of up to $100 and jail time of up to 30 days for each day the business opens as a bar in violation of local zoning laws.
The dispute comes as city-parish officials and the Downtown Development Authority have called for revisiting the 2003 bar ban and possibly opening the door for new bars under certain conditions, though those conditions have not been discussed in detail.