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By requiring closing times for bars, Fat City’s redevelopment plan charted new waters – new for the New Orleans area, anyway. Twenty-four hour bar service is not easy to find once you head west on I-12. But even for New Orleanians, there is no constitutional right to belly up to an open bar all night long.
“Fat City” – whose heyday as a popular entertainment district has long passed – is a mixed use area that was developed in the 60s as the suburb’s answer to the French Quarter. A redevelopment plan seeking to revitalize this area includes new zoning regulations that tackle signs, give strip clubs two years to shut their doors, and guides a main street type development for new projects. And most controversially, bars must close by midnight except for Friday and Saturday, when they must close by 1 a.m.
Proponents and opponents alike were shocked by the introduction of such a measure. Drastic change, no matter what kind, may be difficult for a community to accept, even when the rest of the country is following different rules. Bar owners filed suit in federal court and argued, among other issues, that the ordinance was an unconstitutional taking of their property.
Courts have upheld ordinances that create some adverse economic effect that promote the general welfare. As for Fat City, the United States 5th Circuit found that the ordinance aimed to promote the health, safety, welfare of the community by shutting down bars during the hours most closely associated with dangerously high amounts of intoxication, drunk driving, and violent crimes. The Court was willing to accept any adverse economic effect on the bar owners and noted that they were still able to operate bars and other businesses.
Tiffany Peperone Pitre
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