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MACCNO - St. Roch Tavern ABO Hearing

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Published on May 14, 2013

St. Roch Tavern is a local bar/music venue serving the neighborhood for over 80 years. It has hosted musical performances by Dr. John, Meschiya Lake, New Orleans icon Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, and
countless other local artists ranging from blues to folk to hip hop, and beyond. The historic venue is an important part of local culture but has recently come under attack from the city and a couple of neighbors that moved into the area post-Katrina.

The 2 complaining neighbors are outweighed by many neighbors on the same block that joined a petition in support of St. Roch Tavern, along with hundreds of other local patrons. At a recent ABO hearing the room was filled with people waiting to speak in support of St. Roch Tavern, but after sitting through a 4 hour proceeding during which the owner was relentlessly bullied by prosecutors, time ran out and no supporters allowed to speak.

City attorney Dan McNamara employed a number of dubious tactics to build the case against St. Roch Tavern. A photograph of customers waiting in line while being ID'ed to enter the establishment was submitted as evidence of loitering. Graffiti on a nearby house was somehow blamed on St. Roch Tavern, despite a complete lack of evidence connecting the graffiti to any staff or customer of the bar. A suspiciously cropped photo was introduced into evidence purporting to show that St. Roch Tavern had not displayed a required notice, when in fact these notices were posted visibly in the windows of the bar. Perhaps most outrageous of all, Mr. McNamara even accused St. Roch Tavern of attempting to blackmail a city official. This very serious accusation was backed up only by a printout of a clearly facetious facebook post from someone not affiliated with St. Roch Tavern.

The result of this kangaroo court hearing: severe restrictions on live music were added, go-cups were banned, St. Roch Tavern was fined $10,000 and forced to close for two weeks. Even more severe punishment awaits for the next time there is a complaint.

When the prosecution called the complaining neighbor to testify before the ABO board, she said that she regularly visits St. Roch Tavern for drinks and to enjoy ambience. According to her testimony, live music from inside the bar does not create a noise problem on any night other than Saturday night. Throughout the week live music at St. Roch Tavern is generally not audible outside, but Saturday nights the bar hosts a popular dance party with a well known local DJ. The event is lively and goes later than any other night of the week, which is to be expected for a Saturday night in New Orleans. Nonetheless, a sensible compromise could be reached to satisfy both parties without impacting musical performances on other nights in which noise is not a problem for anyone. However, the city prosecutor chose to push for new restrictions on live music every night of the week, reducing the potential earnings of local musicians as well as the establishment.

The complaining neighbor was also asked if St. Roch Tavern created a litter problem in the neighborhood. Her response was unequivocal: No, there has not been a problem with litter from St. Roch Tavern. The manager regularly picks up trash in the surrounding blocks, and most of it originates from the Rally's across the street. Still, Mr. McNamara pushed to have go-cups banned at St. Roch Tavern. Why is a local business being singled out and punished for a litter problem it didn't create, while a corporate fast food chain does nothing to clean the neighborhood or accept responsibility for the waste originating from its establishment? Go cups are another part of New Orleans unique culture, there is no reason why after 80 years they should now be banned from St. Roch.

St. Roch Tavern is challenging the agreement that was entered into at this second ABO hearing, and wants to modify the consent decree in hopes of extending the hours for live music to midnight on weekdays and 2 AM on Friday and Saturday. They would like to be able to play the jukebox during all open hours and extend closing time by 30 minutes, to 3 AM. Bear in mind most venues in New Orleans are permitted to be open around the clock They would also like to reinstate go cups.. We are asking people to support St. Roch in this endeavor because live music is integral to New Orleans culture. Please join us in the City Council Chambers on June 18th at 1 PM and show your support for live music. You can also send a written statement of support to the ABO Board through Chris Roberts at cwroberts@nola.gov

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