geoffrey gauchet

Fat City to Become Lean City

In case you aren’t aware, Jefferson Parish’s Councilunanimouslypassed a new ordinance to help improve the area of Metairie known as Fat City.

On the surface, it’s a great plan. Fat City is a bit seedy and being near the Causeway and Lakeside Shopping Center, and mere minutes from New Orleans, it’s in a prime location. It should be clean and pretty and bountiful.

The idea to have brick walkways for people to stroll down is nice. Canopies shielding you from a springtime drizzle or south Louisiana’s sunshine is nice too.

Restaurants like Crazy Johnnies and Drago’s are probably the main anchors in the area, and music venues like The Bar and High Ground give local artists a chance to show their talent and get their names out. I used to hang out at High Ground back in the Cypress Hall days and I saw many local and national acts there (Link 80 and Point 07 was my first show, and when I was in The Fraggles, we played there a few times). Hell, Toys R Us is right there too.

But today, the new ordinance not only aims to clean the place up physically, it aims to clean up the crime in the area. That’s its aim, any way. The problem with the ordinance is that it’s forcing anyone who has a liquor permit to stop sales of alcohol at midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. This might not be a big deal for Drago’s or the Time Saver (or whatever it’s called now) since alcohol isn’t their main ware, but it does hurt the bars in the area. A lot.

There’s already an ordinance that passed about 2 decades ago that prohibits anynewbars from opening in Fat City. Existing bars are allowed to operate, but once they close, they’re gone for good. This new ordinance would kill offallbars in the area. Most bars don’t start their big business until 10pm or later. This gives them about 2 hours of real, hard sales.

Cynthia Lee Sheng, who is spearheading this ordinance, claims that a lot of the criminal activity in the area is because of the bars. Actually, she claims it’s at “alcohol permit holders” which includes convenience stores and restaurants.

What Sheng and proponents fail to acknowledge is that the majority of crime originates from the variety of apartment complexes in the area. The apartments are inhabited by mostly low-income citizens, many of whom are not white. Hold your horses! I have a reason for stating that. It’s in my opinion that the Jefferson Parish Council doesn’t want to blame the apartments for two reasons:

1. They are being too politically correct and are afraid that if they blame the apartments, they will be seen as blaming Blacks and Hispanics for the crime in the area.

2. They want to ignore the fact that A POLICE STATION IS LOCATED IN THE HEART OF FAT CITY ON HESSMER!

That’s right: there’s a police station on Hessmer Ave, in the middle of Fat City, and Fat City has some of the highest battery and robbery crime stats in Jefferson Parish. Of course they don’t want to blame the apartmentsdown the street from a police stationbecause that would point out the ineffectiveness of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Look, I’m not down on cops or the JPSO. I think 99% of cops are great men and women doing their best, but when you have a police station in the middle of a heavy crime area and that crime level never declines, you have a problem. Closing bars at 12am or even 1am is not going to solve whatever internal criminal justice issues JP is currently facing.

Do I visit the bars in Fat City? Nah, I go to NOLA for my drinking (or the occasional Kenner bar — don’t judge! Kenner’s a’ight, brah.), but I still feel that this new ordinance is unjustly destroying viable local, small businesses that are funneling tax dollars into the Parish. Would Jefferson Parish rather these bars relocate to Veterans Blvd? Would they rather their main thoroughfare be lined with bars and other such establishments? Or would it be better to tuck them in a little and have them all in close proximity to one another to make policing them easier, à la the French Quarter?

Does Jefferson Parish really think that by closing the bars at 12am that the criminals will just go home and go to bed? No, they’re start wandering the neighborhood and find something else to do at 12am on a Thursday. Or they’ll start moving out tootherparts of Jefferson Parish and wreaking havoc. Wouldn’t it be better to essentially quarantine the bars and criminals to one area (again, one with a police station in the middle of it) to make it easier to clean up?

And what’s next — all JP bars start closing at 12am? I can guaran-damn-tee that very topic will be brought up within 5 years.

And it’s not just bars being shafted–all business will have to physically move their buildings closer to the street corner to facilitate the same “Main Street” feeling Magazine et al project. They are going to require all parking to bebehindthe businesses and the businesses to be right up on the sidewalks. I’m not saying the idea is bad, but have you any idea the tens of thousands of dollars it will cost each business to do this? Drago’s will have to completely re-situate, and Crazy Johnnie’s parking lot across the street will have to go.

Again, Fat City needs fixing, no doubt about it. But forcing bars to close during peak hours and forcing businesses to perform monumental rebuilding is the wrong way to do it. Clean up the crime first. Leave the businesses alone.


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