Go-cups a "sticking point" in Uptown alcohol license battle

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With former neighbor Daiquiri Place Cafe shuttered after losing its liquor license last year, St. Charles Avenue's Santa Fe Tapas has absorbed the crowds Daiquiri Place once held, according to the New Orleans city attorney's office, which has had the restaurant in its sights — and on the Alcohol Beverage Control Board's agenda — for most of 2013.

At today's board hearing, the city attorney's office and Santa Fe Tapas owners were supposed to come to an agreement after the restaurant was faced with "creating a public nuisance" and "permitting any disturbance of the peace" charges with its liquor license in the crosshairs. While both sides seemed poised to come to the terms of the agreement, city attorney Dan McNamara said the bar's lingering issues with loiterers would go away if it agreed to ban go-cups. "My position is that loitering is allowed because they’re allowing people to get a go-cup," he said.

McNamara said the city's alleged attempt to rid bars of go-cups "couldn't be further from the truth."

"It's not a logical extension of what we do," he said, adding that in this particular case, a go-cup prohibition would prevent the "festival atmosphere" the bar creates when people loiter outside with drinks. "It turns into some kind of open-air event," he said.

Board chair Nyka Scott asked why go-cups are a point of concern for McNamara if the bar already has agreed to increasing security; Halpern said they agreed to have security one night a week when the bar is at its busiest. Halpern said he didn't "recall go-cups being a sticking point" in his negotiations for a consent judgment with the city. "(Banning) go cups doesn’t solve loitering," Halpern said. "Personnel solves loitering. ... The way to deal with it is security."

"I never for a second believed go-cups were a problem," he added. "It’s unwieldy and unreasonable, and it doesn’t solve the problem."

McNamara said security alone can't contain the crowds, which he described as sometimes being in the hundreds. Scott said McNamara's request was overreaching "when all we’re talking about is go-cups ... which we can handle with security and a litter abatement program."

The board agreed that the city attorney's office didn't send its evidence to Santa Fe early enough. Halpern said he received it Thursday, leaving less than a week to prepare.

After a brief recess, Chef Matt Murphy of nearby restaurant The Irish House said loitering from Santa Fe blocks traffic and jams up St. Charles, adding that when customers go outside, Santa Fe's owners "have to take responsibility for what happens after that."

McNamara and Santa Fe agreed to a consent judgment that the restaurant will maintain security throughout the week when the restaurant is open; create a litter abatement program wherein Santa Fe is responsible for trash pickup along St. Charles around the restaurant; and go-cups are allowed — as long as they're "professionally printed."

The agreement will appear on the January docket when the board will review the recommendations. Halpern said he will implement the conditions of the consent judgment now.

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