Five and a half months after Hurricane Katrina devastated Bay St. Louis, should the city's midnight curfew be lifted? That was the question hotly debated at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
The issue surfaced after the owners of a restaurant and lounge were arrested over the weekend after police found customers inside the business after midnight. A compromise was reached at Tuesday night's meeting but not before a lot of debate.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre kicked off the council meeting by saying, "Let me emphasis, the curfew is not there to hurt anybody's business whatsoever."
But some Bay St. Louis business owners whose establishments depend on nightlife say the curfew is doing just that.
"I imagine the curfew was very important, especially the first couple of months. But I think at this point and time, based on the interaction I've had with the local community, people are really wanting to get out and stay here in Bay St. Louis instead of driving to Waveland and Diamondhead and other counties to go out and have a good time," restaurant owner Steve D'Angelo said.
D'Angelo owns Bay City Grill, a popular restaurant and lounge near the old Depot in Bay St. Louis. He and his wife were arrested and taken to jail Saturday night because police say the restaurant was open past curfew. He and other lounge owners say the curfew is standing in the way of progress.
"We're trying to find a way to reinvest money in Bay St. Louis. But for us to put together a business plan to go to a bank or SBA, we need some concrete time tables or time lines so we can know when this is going to be over," Third Base Lounge owner Kevin Lentz.
Business owner Mary Carpenter echoed his words.
"I hate to see our tax dollars go out of Bay St. Louis. I'm a real stickler about that. We stay in Bay St. Louis, not in Waveland, not in Diamondhead."
Mayor Favre told the business owners, "The unfortunate thing is we're still under an emergency declaration and there are parts of the city that are just as bad off as they were the day after the storm. So to lift the curfew totally, I don't think is appropriate at this time. If what we're talking about is something Friday and Saturday night or into Saturday morning, Sunday morning extending it til 2 o'clock, we don't have a problem."
That news went over well with the business owners.
"I'm extremely happy that the mayor and the council have open their ears up to the business owners in town who came out tonight and voiced their opinion and are willing to respond so quickly," D'Angelo said.
The new curfew hours take effect this weekend, Friday and Saturday night from 2am until 6am. The midnight curfew remains in affect during the rest of the week.