New bars may be allowed to open in downtown Lafayette in 2018.
Since 2003, the number of bars operating in the downtown area was limited to those already in place. Buildings that housed bars at that time were the only buildings where bars are allowed.
The moratorium was an attempt by city officials to stop the spread of bars that some feared would create a Bourbon Street-type atmosphere in Lafayette’s downtown, where they seek a balance among bars, restaurants, retail and residences.
“It’s been an ongoing quandary for us,” said Geoff Dyer, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority. “We want to see the bar and restaurant community grow and thrive. We want responsible bar and restaurant owners to be able to succeed.”
But the moratorium has created an environment, he said, where that’s increasingly difficult.
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For instance, Artmosphere Bistro, a music venue that wasn’t in place before the moratorium, has tried to meet state requirements for a food venue (more than 50 percent of its sales would have to be food) so it can stay open.
In 2016, the Lafayette City-Parish Council asked staff to look at ways to allow new bars.
The zoning commission endorsed an ordinance Monday that goes to the council Dec. 19 for introduction, with final approval Jan. 9, Carlee Alm-Labar, planning and development director said.
The ordinance creates a conditional use permit that will allow the operation of additional bars in the downtown area.
Under the proposal, anyone wishing to open a bar would apply with Lafayette Consolidated Government for a conditional use permit. If they meet certain restrictions, the request will go to the zoning commission then the council for final approval.
LCG already implemented a new alcohol code and is adding new lighting and parking meters downtown, Alm-Labar said. Lifting the bar moratorium is another step.
“I think we’re recognizing it as a critical step,” Dyer said. “It’s a momentous step.”