I don’t mind neighborhood bars. I don’t even mind bars that happen to be owned or managed by felons who paid their debt to society. What I do mind is bars, whether owned/managed by felons or not, that allow, facilitate, and profit from criminal and illegal activity, including drug-dealing, promoting improper conduct, and concealing violations.

People have asked why downtown New Orleans continues to see an increase in crime despite widespread cameras and cops. Often, mounted police are stationed outside venues on Bourbon Street waiting for misbehavior. By itself, the number of tourists is not the powder keg for crime and lawlessness. It's the type of tourism that produces disorder and diminishing returns: drunken tourism — which creates easy marks for opportunistic criminals to target. If opportunistic criminals can't find a vulnerable tourist (who is often drunk or high) separated from the herd, they'll shift their sights upon service-industry workers and well-to-do residents in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.

Our city does not have enough law enforcement to ensure public safety — let alone ensure compliance with rules against drug-dealing at bars, serving intoxicated customers, disturbing the peace, or promoting improper conduct. Nuisance bars in an arms race to make their customers drunker than the competition are disproportionately tying up police, which leaves the rest of New Orleans under-protected (especially at late-night hours before dawn). As contemplated by Ordinance 32,693, minimum-quality standards for bars and tools to improve accountability could curtail problems at troublesome venues before they worsen. But special interests are fighting hard against minimum-quality standards and consequences for careless operations.

In 2012, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed minimum-quality standards and accountability rules for taxicabs. Kicking and screaming during the vote, cab drivers packed council chambers to criticize new standards. Certainly, taxicabs at the time needed improvements to enhance their presentation and cleanliness, but they are not as much as a burden on law enforcement and quality of life as nuisance bars. Since 2015, multiple venues in the heart of downtown New Orleans have been cited repeatedly for drug-dealing, prostitution, and lewd conduct; these types of violations and the environment fostered at late-night establishments have traceable links to crime. It's ridiculous that unscrupulous establishments and strippers want some laws enforced but not all.

Why can't our city council muster the will to support minimum-quality standards, accountability, and quality-of-life measures to rein in nuisance bars? Minimum-quality standards and consequences for violating rules that govern alcohol beverage outlets would relieve tremendous pressures placed on overburdened law enforcement personnel, especially NOPD. If the city council rejects an effective Ordinance 32,693, it’s apparent that some politicians are only paying lip service to concerns about public safety, given that nuisance establishments are devouring scarce law enforcement resources with no accountability or responsibility.

William Khan

business owner

New Orleans