Jones now has more say over new lounge permits

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — A request by St. John Parish Sheriff Wayne L. Jones to have more involvement in who is granted a license to sell alcohol was granted several months ago, shortly after he made his recommendation to have more input.

According to Chief Criminal Deputy Harold Klibert, an “in-house decision” was made in February between the parish and the sheriff’s offices to allow Jones to have a greater voice regarding the parish granting occupational licenses to those wanting to sell alcohol.

“It was more of an administrative issue,” Klibert said, “We discussed it with the council, but they did not have to take formal action. It was adopted and passed some months ago.”

According to past reports by L’Observateur, Jones wrote a letter to Parish Council Chairman Joel McTopy in February requesting the applications for bars, lounges and restaurants bars be forwarded to him in addition to other parish channels.

“After I have an opportunity to review, I would sign off approving or disapproving, forwarding same to the parish president for final disposition,” Jones wrote.

Klibert said the application is now forwarded to the sheriff’s office after the applicant completes it.

The sheriff’s office then does background checks, not only on the individual applying for the occupational license, but also on a named manager of the establishment, Klibert said.

Klibert said requiring a business license to name its potential manager/operator is one of the most important steps in the process.

“”We know a lot of times who they are, but sometimes people come in and apply on another person’s behalf,” Klibert said, “They get the license, and then someone else is running the place.”

In the letter to McTopy, Jones explained how a woman had applied for a club license in her name, and then allowed two men to run the establishment. According to Jones, the men had both served state time in jail for the distribution of crack cocaine.

Klibert also said, in the past, the applications would get forwarded to records, and sometimes it would just be a preliminary records check.

The sheriff now does these checks, writes his comments on it, whether he’s in favor or not in favor of it. Then the parish president gives his review and his decision while considering the sheriff’s input, said Klibert.

“It’s all worked out much, much better,” Klibert said, “there may have been two that we took a negative issue on, and the parish president didn’t grant the license.”

The idea behind the new process is to prevent violence and keep the bars within the law.

“We want to prevent the drug activity that perpetuates the situation and does not provide a conducive environment,” Klibert said, “Drugs, shootings, deputies having to go over their all the time- this is not a stable business.”

Klibert said the sheriff’s office sends out deputies at random and unannounced to check and verify the licensed owner or manager is on site.

Jones has said in the past he is pushing for a better relationship between bar owners and the sheriff’s office, and he would like owners to feel comfortable to report problems.

“It’s all in the name of public safety for the parish,” Klibert said, “I won’t say it’s been a 100 percent improvement, but there is a definite improvement.”