After four hours of public comment, and 11 months of detailed revisions, the New Orleans City Council passed an ABO Ordinance overhauling decades-old provisions in the City Code on regulations of Alcohol Beverage Outlet permits.

We spoke in support of this ordinance and feel it was a good compromise between a diverse group of stakeholders including residents, bar and restaurant owners, and service industry representatives.

The existing city code, with sections dating back over 50 years, will now be updated to include, among many other items:

  • Alignment with existing state laws for legal operation. This clarifies that if the State revokes an ABO permit, the City must also revoke its permit.
  • A removal of antiquated and discriminatory language, and certain barriers to employment regarding prior misdemeanor convictions.
  • The creation of an appeals process for applicants denied a new or renewal ABO permit.
  • A requirement that the applicant have no outstanding sales or property taxes owed at the ABO location, but does authorize the ABO Board to waive this requirement if “the lessee is acting in good faith and a waiver will avoid undue hardship to the lessee.”
  • The creation of a new section providing that the Department of Safety & Permits, NOPD and the Department of Finance determine ABO eligibility.
  • Allowing bars to have sidewalk seating on the public right of way. Previously, all outside seating for bars was prohibited, though many do exist. This allowance requires that bar owners apply for permits for the privilege in the same way that restaurants with café seating are required.

A final, and hotly debated, amendment grants temporary suspension authority to the ABO Board in the event of an emergency situation that poses a “direct and immediate danger” to the public. This outlines that the ABO Board may not assume this authority until after a public rules promulgation process, a hearing and another vote of the Council. This process must define the circumstances when an emergency suspension is permitted, establish notice requirements and confirms that an emergency suspension cannot be issued until a pre-suspension hearing is provided.

We thank all the Councilmembers, particularly Councilmembers Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Cyndi Nguyen, along with their staff for their dedication to this effort. We will also be following the rules promulgation progression with the ABO Board and will keep you updated. More information about the hearing can be found here and here.