Bar Dispute Over Possible Open-Container Law Changes

Bars around Baton Rouge are starting to choose sides. Some bars claim downtown bars are getting an unfair edge. Many downtown bars are pushing for relaxed drinking laws, so that people can walk on the street with open containers of liquor, but only downtown. Bar owners outside of downtown say if the laws change, they want the same rules. WAFB's Tyana Williams has the story.

Having the alcohol flow inside the bar is one thing, now some owners want the laws changed, so customers can hop from bar to bar, and take their drinks with them. Jack Warner says, "Part of that is entertainment district. Part of entertainment district is ease up on alcohol issues." Jack Warner owns two downtown bars. He says allowing the open containers and keeping the bars open later will attract a more professional crowd.

Attorney Mike Clegg says, "To me, that's unfair." On the other side are bars in Tigerland and around Baton Rouge who say if the laws change, their customers will go downtown to drink, and they'll lose business. Clegg says, "We feel at least 10 or 11 people leave our places and go downtown." Mike Clegg is representing those 20 bars that all say downtown should not get special treatment. He says, "If you change laws, people will go and attract more party atmosphere because you can stay outside, drink, walk streets bar to bar, have open containers. It's more of a party."

Warner says it's not a matter of special treatment, what it comes down to is they just attract different crowds. He says, "Come down to live at 5, on weekends, you don't see drunken. You see bankers, lawyers, office assistance walking around, eating, drinking, hanging out." Still, Clegg feels no matter what the age, people know how to find alcohol and to keep things fair, one law, open container or not, should apply to all the bars.

If those bars want the current open container laws changed, Metro Council would have to vote whether or not there can be open containers downtown. Clegg says bars outside of downtown are getting together just in case they have to plea their position on the issue before the city council.