NEW ORLEANS, La. - A nuisance bar in the Hollygrove neighborhood was once a haven for drugs, guns and violence, according to state and local officials. They have since shut down Big Time Tips, located in the 8800 block of Edinburgh.
Neighbors say it has made a big difference, which they contend shows just how much of an impact problem bars can have on an area.
"There was a lot of gunfire," complained Joe Sherman, who lives down the street from the bar. At least one incident last December was fatal.
When state agents raided the bar in February, they cited a dozen violations. Fourteen people were arrested including the DJ. Authorities found crack cocaine and marijuana in the DJ booth, and believe he intended to sell.
"We found narcotics laying on the ground throughout the premises," said Melissa Perry, assistant special agent in charge with the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. "The bar itself was unsanitary. There were fruit flies within the liquor bottles, bugs all throughout the back of the bar. It was pretty disgusting."
That's why the state temporarily shut the bar down. The ATC suspended its liquor license for up to a year.
Sherman said it's made a drastic difference in his neighborhood.
"It's so peaceful and quiet," said Sherman.
Authorities agree. They said calls for service have dropped 75 percent in the immediate area since the bar closed.
"I would love to see it shut down permanently," said Commander Paul Noel of New Orleans Police's Second district.
Under the ATC ruling, the bar can reopen after six months if it complies with a list of demands.
Those include hiring off duty details on weekends, installing security cameras, and only allowing those 25 and over inside.
"If they do decide to reopen, they'll have to change their entire clientele," said Perry.
And while the bar suffers consequences from the state, it also faces separate penalties from the city. The city's Alcohol Beverage Control board is holding a hearing Tuesday afternoon to decide what disciplinary action it will take. The possibilities include shutting the bar down for good.
"If the city imposes any stricter penalties or suspension rulings, the state will follow suit," said Perry.
Authorities said shutting down Big Time Tips was the beginning of a stronger partnership between neighborhood associations, the ATC, and the NOPD. Sherman hopes it continues. "Everybody ought to be able to live in peace where they live," said Sherman. "And that's what we intend."
The man who runs the bar didn't want to go on camera, but said he intends to comply with ATC standards and reopen the place.