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Does it make sense to close doors of Bourbon Street bars at 3 a.m.?

The Cats Meow opens their doors on Bourbon Street. A new proposal by the City of New Orleans would have bars close their doors at 3 a.m. to curb partying on the street.
The Cats Meow opens their doors on Bourbon Street. A new proposal by the City of New Orleans would have bars close their doors at 3 a.m. to curb partying on the street. The Advocate

An effort to curb the freewheeling nighttime culture of Bourbon Street by encouraging early-morning revelers to stay inside bars after 3 a.m. is being pitched as a move to increase public safety.

But the plan announced Monday — a step back from an earlier proposal by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration that would have ended the city's tradition of all-night bars — targets an hour that’s well after crime has peaked and that actually marks the start of a lull in police activity, an analysis of New Orleans Police Department data shows.

All of the headline-making shootings on Bourbon Street in recent years, which served as a catalyst for the administration’s plan, occurred earlier than the 3 a.m. street-sweeping the mayor's proposal envisions.

In fact, there hasn’t been a reported shooting between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Bourbon Street in at least six years.

The latest version of the Landrieu administration’s $40 million security plan, which includes installing surveillance cameras in 20 neighborhoods and an increased police and code enforcement presence in the French Quarter, does not tamper with the relatively loose rules that allow bars to serve patrons at all hours.

However, it has riled bar owners and French Quarter business groups because, if approved by the City Council, it would require that they keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. and would try to reduce the number of people partying outside — steps officials have said are aimed at both increasing public safety and reducing complaints about quality-of-life issues.

In fact, the proposal misses the hours when such complaints are most prevalent, an analysis by The New Orleans Advocate shows. Crimes throughout the city peak far earlier in the day, and even near bars on Bourbon Street, by 3 a.m. police activity is on a slide toward its lowest point.

That conforms with what business owners in the French Quarter say has been their experience dealing with crime and crowds on the city’s busiest strip.

“That’s been pretty much our contention: That’s not when most of the crimes happen,” said Alex Fein, with the French Quarter Business League. “The majority of that stuff isn’t happening that late.”

For the rest of this story, visit The Advocate’s website.

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