Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
METAIRIE, La. -- For the first time Thursday, every bar in Metairie's Fat City will pour its last drink of the night before midnight. It's part of a controversial ordinance that mandates the neighborhood's bars to close by midnight on weekdays, and 1 a.m. on weekends.
It affects the area running from Veterans Boulevard to West Esplanade, and from Severn to Division.
It's meant to curb crime and revitalize the neighborhood, but bartenders say it'll do something else.
'No one's going to be ready to go home at 1 a.m., so all that's going to do is drive businesses to other places in Metairie and downtown,' said Rachel Hirdes, a Fat City bartender.
Until Thursday, some of the area's bars were open around the clock. Now, many bar owners are afraid cutting their hours will kill their business.
And some bartenders say the new rule has already hurt business, even before going into effect.
'A lot of people aren't coming out here spending money like they usually do,' said Robert Heidel, a bartender in Fat City.
But some residents believe the new law will help improve the area and make it more family-friendly.
'I think it's a great idea,' said Donna Stutson, who has lived in Fat City since Katrina. 'Fat City has been known for one of those party towns. Since I've been here, I've seen some progress made. And I think it's a great idea. It's going to help cut down on crime and just make it a family atmosphere with all the nice restaurants we have around here.'
And that's what Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng is hoping for. She spearheaded the effort in hopes the area, once a thriving hot-spot for upscale disco joints in the '70s, would one day have condos and high-end shopping.
'I think a lot of people were afraid to invest in that area because of the safety of their customers,' said Lee-Sheng. 'Certainly we want people to succeed, but we want the area as a whole to be an attraction once again for the heart of Metairie.'
But bartenders argue the crime stems from the area's apartment complexes, not from its bars.
And a number of lawsuits filed by bar owners in the area allege the boundaries for the new ordinance are unfair. Some point out that some bars in the area, like Lagers and a daquiri joint, aren't included because they face Veterans.
'I think if they're going to close bars early, they should do it for all of Jefferson Parish, not just Fat City,' said Hirdes.
According to Lee-Sheng, there are nearly two dozen businesses in Fat City that sell alcoholic beverages. That includes restaurants and convenience stores, which will also have to abide by the new rules.
As part of the ordinance, strip clubs in Fat City will be ordered to shut down by January 2013.