Nobody is taking away your "go-cup." Drinking on the streets of New Orleans is not going extinct.
Last week, a flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts had some people up in arms about the City of New Orleans' alleged "war on go-cups" — all of which seemed to stem from a few articles that also promoted the third annual New Orleans Daiquiri Festival Aug. 17. A petition on Neighborland.com asked that go-cups "remain legal," garnering dozens of signatures.
But none of the articles pointed to any existing or planned ordinances to repeal or alter the city's open container laws, and there is nothing of that sort in the works, according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.
"The city is not pursuing a universal restriction on go-cups," Landrieu's press secretary Tyler Gamble wrote in a statement to Gambit.
Some new businesses applying for a conditional-use permit to open a bar, restaurant or venue, however, have been asked by the City Planning Commission (CPC) or the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to restrict or ban go-cups — a policy that has been in place under the most recent zoning ordinances since at least 2007. That conditional-use permit allows a bar, restaurant or venue to open within an area typically not zoned for such uses, such as a primarily residential area. It also applies to arts and cultural overlay districts, such as those on Freret and Frenchmen streets, and the upcoming overlay on St. Claude Avenue from Press Street to Poland Avenue. The zoning ordinance for conditional-use permits reads, "To-go cups shall be prohibited for those premises with alcoholic beverage permits."
In addition, a bar or venue also may sign a "good neighbor agreement" with the board, CPC and neighborhood organizations that prevents the bar from issuing go-cups. Neighbors complain the cups present a litter problem. The agreements typically include a litter abatement program, such as adding trash cans.
Those restrictions do not apply to existing businesses, including bars and daiquiri shops, unless the businesses are brought before New Orleans City Council or the alcohol board for violations, such as noise, litter, delinquent taxes or other issues.
What about drinkers' rights? The city's open-container law doesn't prevent drinking outside a bar unless the beverage is in a glass or "metal" container. According to the city, "It shall be unlawful for owners of establishments which sell beverages in glass or metal containers in the city to knowingly allow any person to leave the premises of such establishment carrying an opened glass or opened metal container." And the open-container law means there's no reason you can't bring your own go-cup to any establishment.
— Alex Woodward