Baton Rouge businesses with drive-thrus must now serve pedestrians, cyclists, customers in wheelchairs
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - During most of the pandemic, the McDonald’s on Government Street only served customers in the drive-thru. Well, that made it hard for folks who did not have a car. East Baton Rouge Metro Council wants to help folks who are limited to two wheels or their feet.
A new ordinance passed Wednesday, Jan. 12 now requires businesses in East Baton Rouge Parish that operate a drive-thru window to allow pedestrians, cyclists, and customers in wheelchairs if the business’ customer entrance is closed.
All businesses in the parish that have drive-thru windows including fast-food restaurants, banks, and pharmacies, are required to comply with the new ordinance.
District 11 councilwoman Laurie Adams proposed the ordinance after hearing reports from residents without a vehicle who had trouble getting service from businesses during the pandemic.
“The pandemic was causing businesses to close counter service and that was creating difficulties for people who were completely bike-dependent or walking-dependent,” Adams said upon introducing the ordinance at Wednesday evening’s council meeting. “I’d never really considered that. I just took it for granted that I had a car and could access everything I needed.”
“In other words, we got to drive a car to get something to eat or drink,” Raymond Joseph, 70, tells WAFB. Joseph says he likes to walk the downtown area for exercise, but every now and then he needs something to drink.
“I walk from 12th Street to the YMCA, work out and I walk there and back home. I do a little shopping at Matherne’s, and I try to stop here every now and then, but they won’t serve me when I am walking,” Joseph explains.
Joseph is not the only person having a hard time getting service. In the last year, businesses like pharmacies, banks and fast food closed their indoor services to the public…limited service to the drive-thru only. Folks saw during the pandemic and even during the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. However, most drive-thrus turn away customers that walk up to the window or are on a bicycle.
“We have a number of people in our community that the way that they get around, the way that they get to the pharmacy or to the bank is by foot. So, when counter services close, when the indoor services close and the drive-thru is open. We are asking businesses to think about how they can serve those customers,” Adams tells WAFB.
Adams brought this ordinance to life. The Metro Council agreed that if a business does not have their indoor services running, and only office drive-thru; they have to serve customers even if they are not in a car.
“I think we need to be looking for ways to support community members who do walk, ride bikes and then we also have some people that use wheelchairs. Motorized wheelchairs as their motor transportation as well,” Adams adds.
The ordinance will also apply to people who are in motorized wheelchairs. WAFB spoke with Disability Rights Louisiana, they believe this is good for folks who may have a hard time getting around.
“A decent step in the right direction, it could be improved down the road. For example, drive-thru windows may not be the right height for people while using a wheelchair to access. So, it’s a positive step in that it allows more accessibility, but it could be developed further,” says Tory Rocca who is the director of public policy for Disability Rights Louisiana.
Members of Bike Baton Rouge say they believe allowing cyclists to go through drive-thrus will also help with the traffic. The ordinance will officially go into effect sometime in March. Baton Rouge is the fourth city in the U.S. to put this ordinance in place.
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