Report: 'House advances Chelsea's-friendly bill'

The Louisiana House of Representatives advanced a bill that would loosen state restrictions on restaurants that offer drink specials and late-night entertainment.

The measure came in response to actions by the Bureau of Alcohol & Tobacco Control regarding Chelsea’s Cafe, a restaurant in Baton Rouge.

Senate Bill 136 came in response to a January memo from state Alcohol Tobacco and Control chief Murphy Painter, which indicated that more than 5,000 restaurants could be violating the law.

Painter contends some restaurants turn into bars late at night and do not have the proper license.

Painter’s memo said that businesses operating under restaurant licenses that have bar in their name, offer alcoholic drink specials or implement cover charges for late night entertainment could no longer be considered a restaurant, said state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans.

Arnold said Painter was trying to change the definition of restaurant, which has been “clearly understood by all parties” for many years.

Restaurant licenses are easier to obtain than those that allow bars and entertainment venues to operate.

Chelsea’s Cafe in Baton Rouge ran afoul of Painter, who claimed the restaurant was turning into a bar at night. The restaurant has been fighting a license suspension.

SB136 defines what constitutes a restaurant, including that it must make more than 50 percent of its average monthly revenues in food and non-alcoholic beverage sales. It goes on to say that just because a restaurant has bar in its name, offers alcoholic drink specials or entertainment with a cover charge does not mean they are no longer a restaurant.

The bill has the backing of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. The House voted 68-31 in favor.

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