After significant public comment, and discussion from a couple of members, Ruston’s Board of Aldermen approved at last night’s meeting an ordinance that will extend hours for alcohol consumption in restaurants, and also will allow for open containers at approved public events, among other provisions.
It was also revealed at the meeting that authorities have historically been lenient on ongoing open container violations at Louisiana Tech University (LTU) Football Tailgaiting events. The open container revisions in the ordinance were designed to address the tailgating issue.
Voting for the ordinance were:
Jed Lewis (Ward 3)
Angela Mayfield (Ward 2)
Carolyn Cage (Ward 1)
Voting no were:
Bruce Siegmund (Ward 5)
Jim Pearce (Ward 4)
Here is the ordinance.
Former Lincoln Parish School Board member Ted McKinney spoke against the changes, saying the expanded liquor hours would place more of a burden on area first responders.
Initially, he was reluctant to speak out because, “the issue will already be resolved before that night comes to a vote anyway.”
McKinney’s wife, Mary, a former Dean of Student Services at Tech, also spoke against the ordinance, citing her experience with students and alcohol.
Ed Shell said, “Nothing really good happens after drinking until 2 o’clock in the morning,” and “If you’re selling alcohol from between Midnight and 2 AM, during that period, you’re not running a restaurant, you’re running a bar.”
Harriet Jones said she checked with the restaurants downtown, and found only two that were pushing the issue: Ponchatoula’s and Sundown.
Judy Copeland, speaking on behalf of the Ruston/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, said the ordinance would enhance the restaurant business in Ruston, bringing in more tax revenue.
T. J. Cranford said that after midnight, people who want to drink can drive down the road just past Temple Baptist Church, and buy, so, “…we have to handle whatever the drunks are bringing back with them, so we might as well keep them here and get where we can get the tax dollars off of them.”
Chris Garriga, who owns Ponchatoula’s, said he understood the issue with young people, as he was a father of two. He said he would make sure extra security was in place to maintain order. He added that his businesses buy locally and help support the area economy.
Richard Lewis, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the organization’s membership was in favor of the ordinance.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Ronny Walker addressed several questions raised by Alderman Siegmund.
Walker said most Tech students were under 21, so only a small percentage would be affected. Louisiana’s drinking age is 21.
Walker then admitted that the city’s open container law hadn’t been enforced at Tech Tailgaiting events.
Said Walker, “One of my concerns with what we do now, is when we go to a football game and there’s tailgaiing, we have an open container law, and we’re telling basically – we’re not telling, it’s happened over the years – we’re being hypocrites like was mentioned earlier. Because our law says you can’t have a drink in a cup, but we were allowing it, our police – not just our police but the state police was turning their backs on it. This clarifies it and takes care of it.”
Alderman Pearce noted, “I have a real problem with the 2 o’clock. I don’t think its a positive for the community. The mayor’s doing a great job leading us in this Moving Ruston Forward. And then here we get something like this that divides us.” He added, “Tech is growing in leaps and bounds; they’re not coming because we may open our alcohol until 2 o’clock.”
Pearce tried unsuccessfully to amend the ordinance and eliminate the extended closing hours. When he made the motion, Walker, who chairs the council meetings, deferred to City Attorney Bill Carter.
Carter said that a motion on the table couldn’t be amended because the mover (Jedd Lewis) did not consent to the amendment.