BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some downtown business owners claim panhandlers are running off their customers and chasing away their business. They are calling on the elected leaders to do something before the city gets a bad reputation.
Downtown Baton Rouge has undergone a huge transformation in the last decade. Locals and out-of-towners are finding new reasons to stay, but some longtime business owners, like Bradley Bates of Bates and Thigpen, fear some unwanted visitors will ruin what they have worked so hard to build.
"You can pull change out of your pocket and say you can have this, and they will be offended and chew you out and walk away," said Bates.
"Starting at the beginning of this year, it's just gotten out of hand," said Michael Kane, a manager at Downtown Grocery.
Kane shared with WAFB a recent incident he witnessed as a couple was walking home from dinner. "They were walking form the Little Village and they came to the store, asking me for help because a panhandler was trying to grab their to-go food from them," said Kane.
Timothy Ferdinand, who claims he lives on the streets, says even he is aware of the problem. "It's bad because you got so many people living on the streets and under the bridges and in between the buildings," said Ferdinand.
"We try to politely move them along as best we can, but we really need some help down here," said former EBR metro councilman and bar owner, John Delgado.
Delgado says the beggars have been harassing his customers at night. He says having a police presence helps, but what the city really needs is an ordinance to get the situation under control. He proposes city leaders model it after one in Lafayette, Louisiana.
"They will politely tell you to move along and go to the business you are supposed to and don't loiter on the streets," said Delgado.
Business owners are worried if the city does not do something soon, it could hurt their bottom line. "I don't want people to come to Baton Rouge for a convention to have the perception that Baton Rouge is nothing but beggars," said Bates.
Executive director of the Downtown Development District, Davis Rhorer, issued the following statement in response to recent complaints: