Relaxed alcohol restrictions that gave local restaurants and bars an extra way to make cash amid pandemic-prompted gathering bans will now be the norm in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Metro Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to allow eateries and watering holes to continue curbside pickup and delivery indefinitely.
Councilman Cleve Dunn Jr. — who co-sponsored the ordinance revision with Councilman Aaron Moak — applauded the new rule.
"Customers liked the way products and services were delivered, the businesses enjoyed the new level of autonomy that they experienced and they look forward to moving forward with this post-pandemic," Dunn said.
The booze-to-go rule was more than a month in the making, involving several revisions to get it just right. Among those changes: lowering fees for some liquor licenses and striking out language that would have excluded businesses that hired drag queens as bartenders or dancers. Lawmakers also added a provision to include nail and hair salons as approved alcohol purveyors.
Nail and hair salons providing alcohol is common practice in the parish, Moak said, and the amendment simply codified that practice into the city-parish's alcohol ordinance.
Metro Council's move comes as the state loosens COVID restrictions that dealt a massive financial blow to the food-service industry.
Moak, who represents District 4, touted the legislation as "something to help our businesses move forward and thrive even more after this pandemic comes to an end."
The Louisiana Restaurant Association voiced support for the ordinance, saying its Baton Rouge members have acted in a "responsible manner" throughout the pandemic.
"While the COVID operating restrictions are being eased, our members lost over a full year of normal revenue," LRA President Stan Harris wrote in a letter submitted as public comment. "The approval of this amendment will allow them to continue to recover revenue and hopefully sustain their business operations."