Relaxed restrictions that gave local restaurants and bars a way to continue alcohol sales amid pandemic-related shutdowns could become permanent.
The East Baton Rouge Metro Council on Wednesday will consider revising a city-parish ordinance to allow eateries and drinking establishments to keep offering curbside and home delivery of alcoholic drinks on their own or through third-party apps like Waitr and Uber Eats.
Council co-sponsors Cleve Dunn Jr. and Aaron Moak call their plan a "progressive step forward" for the community.
"The pandemic forced us into a more progressive approach and into more liberties for these establishments as it relates to how they sell and get products to their consumers," Dunn said. "Anarchy didn't happen because we allowed curbside delivery of alcohol. Things were still held together. I think Baton Rouge is more progressive today than it was 20 or 30 years ago."
Moak echoed the sentiment.
"It's strictly a continuation of what's been working," he said. "Now we're giving them the legal rights and means to do so."
Several local restaurant owners voiced support for the proposal, saying it would give them more flexibility even beyond the pandemic.
"We want people to come in and get the full experience," said Stephen Hightower, who owns Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine, City Pork, City Slice Pints & Pizza and Rouj Creole. "But that being said, I'm sure there's plenty of people … that are still vulnerable and may not feel comfortable coming in. Having that option is a great decision by the Metro Council and still gives us the opportunity to add something onto a to-go order and accentuate the experience."
Kevin Kimball — director of operations for The Little Village, Stab's Prime Steak and Seafood and Sammy's Grill — said his restaurants offered limited to-go alcohol sales early in the pandemic and that he welcomes the chance to keep the service long-term.
"More flexibility is always nice," he said, "and treating people like adults is never a bad thing."
Dunn and Moak have toiled over the proposed legislation for the past month-and-a-half, hitting a snag when a previous draft inadvertently included language excluding businesses that hire drag queens or "male impersonators" as exotic dancers or bartenders. That error forced the two council colleagues to delay voting on the proposal until the stipulation was removed.
A current draft of proposed changes to an ordinance regulating liquor sales in East Baton Rouge Parish would prohibit drag queens and male imp…
"That was an oversight of the Parish Attorney's Office, who basically copied and pasted provisions from the state law," Dunn explained. "I'm in no way, shape or form in support of discrimination."
Wednesday's meeting, which starts at 4 p.m., is open to all virtually through the city-parish website.