The Bossier City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would allow open containers in a section of downtown, including the new East Bank District, the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets and Margaritaville Resort and Casino. But the council still has many questions it wants answered before the proposal moves forward.
“It’s in line with the vision for the area,” said City Councilman Tommy Harvey. “But there are issues that need to be addressed, and we haven’t discussed those yet.”
One of the issues that Harvey brought up during the meeting is the boundaries of the open-container zone. He said he would prefer to remove the Horseshoe Casino and some residential areas from the zone. Other issues he brought up include the hours of operation, loitering, littering and pedestrian safety. Bossier City Police Chief Shane McWilliams told the council that his department would have to add personnel to patrol the entire open-container zone during peak times.
The council heard from supporters of the proposal during a lively discussion at the meeting. One of those supporters was Bill McFadden, general manager of the Boardwalk. He said the Boardwalk currently turns away 10 to 15 people a day coming from Margaritaville with open containers.
“This is not a license for public drunkenness,” McFadden said. “We are going to maintain a first-class facility at all times. We aren’t going to allow people to become problems.”
Councilman Scott Irwin said that increasing entertainment at the Boardwalk was one component in his support of the proposal.
“I would like to see mini-festivals under the (Texas Street) bridge and things like that,” Irwin said. “I am not for this if it doesn’t increase our entertainment options.”
McFadden agreed and said the Boardwalk also plans to add entertainment in the smaller pergolas along the Red River. McFadden also said the ordinance would be a business generator for the Boardwalk, particularly in recruiting more restaurants.
“We have to live up to our full potential,” he said. “And to do that, we have to reinvent ourselves.”
Mike McSwain, the developer behind the East Bank District, said reinvention was the goal of the project from the beginning.
“Our overall vision was to create a unique place for both families and adults,” he said. “Festival Plaza was designed to host concerts and events with alcohol sales. That was the thought all along. What started out as a drive for millennials has come to be about everybody.”
“iBenjamin Hart of Flying Heart Brewing shared his thoughts on the ordinance’s role in the success of business in the East Bank District.
“It’s integral to what we want to do,” Hart said. “As is, we will compete with each other. With it, we will have cooperation.”
“Let’s find a way to make it work. If we need to make some changes, let’s make some changes, but let’s not throw it out and make all these changes to the East Bank District and then have it stay vacant, have nobody down there. That’s what’s going to happen.”
Council members will discuss the proposed amendment again at their meeting Nov. 21.