NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans bar scene could soon undergo a major change. The city council is set to vote this week on whether to increase the age someone can enter a bar.
City council president Jackie Clarkson has introduced an ordinance that would make all New Orleans bars 21 and up. Right now, state law allows anyone 18 and over to enter a drinking establishment, though they must be 21 to drink.
"When you have a bunch of 18 years old in there, you can't police whether or not they're drinking, so it's made for total confusion," said Clarkson. "It's out of control, and it's young people that are out on the streets causing fights, young people that are causing problems for the criminal justice system."
But Kiley Laennli feels differently. She's the assistant manager of Brunos Tavern in the university area.
"I don't think it would be fair because we do a very good job of making sure that people under 21 don't drink while they're at our bar," said Laennli. "And we also have a lot of things for people to do besides drink here, like we have a trivia night, we have shuffle board."
The city council is also set to vote on another ordinance that would strengthen penalties for bars that allow those under 21 inside.
"We're going to be serious," said Clarkson. "In essence, we're going to have the ability to close down bars if they don't cooperate."
Some bars already prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from entering. Phillips Bar on Maple Street is one of them. General manager Jason Warrington supports the ordinance and believes it would help make the street quieter.
Clarkson anticipates that the ordinances would make the city safer. But others aren't so sure.
"If you can go get killed in a war for your country, you should be able to go to a bar," said Joseph Berg, of New Orleans.
"I think there will be more young people on the street wandering around without a place to hang or stuff to do," said Paige Devell, a visitor from New Jersey. " think its better to sit somewhere, listen to music with your friends than wander around the streets."
A public hearing is set for 1 PM Thursday in city council chambers. The city council plans to vote on the issue immediately after.
The ordinance would not impact estbalishments that serve more food than alcohol, and bar employees would not have to be 21 in order to work at an establishment.