By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |
Tuesday’s meeting on whether to revoke the license of a Ninth Ward watering hole made for painful memories.
And yet, even though Adrian Joseph was host of the birthday party for his daughter at which an 18-year-old was shot dead and four other patrons wounded, he was not among those urging the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to shut down the B&L Restaurant & Lounge, a Port Street establishment near Claiborne Avenue.
Joseph testified before the ABO Board that he and his wife had planned the event to celebrate their daughters 18th birthday and that while they do not reside in the neighborhood, Billy Blanks, owner of the B&L is his wife’s uncle and they have an affection for the place.
Homicide Detective Elizabeth Garcia testified that emergency medical services were called to the scene and “attempted lifesaving measures to no avail.” She said she saw no evidence of a party — “no cups or cake” — but plenty of evidence of carnage: “hairclips, baseball caps and other items strewn in the blood.”
City attorney Dan MacNamara argued the case for revoking the B&L’s license on grounds that Blanks abdicated responsibility for the lounge on the night of the party and may have sold liquor to minors.
The party was centered in a lounge separate from the B&L’s bar, witnesses testified.
Under questioning, Joseph said there was no formal plan for security at the party but that when he saw some of the kids dressed “more thuggish” than others he arranged for pat-downs of those entering, both males and females.
Joseph said there was not a formal guest list and that he had not wanted to be inhospitable to neighborhood youths who gathered outside the club and clamored to come in. He said he wanted to teach his children not to discriminate against low-income, inner city peers – the world he escaped through a career in the military.
According to Joseph there were approximately 40 partygoers in the restaurant area when the shooting began, near the end of the event.
Joseph was not alone in his support for letting Blanks stay in business. Neighbors painted a picture of a low-profile neighborhood establishment that is valued by the community. Blanks and the bar manager testified that there is ongoing surveillance of the bar area to prevent underage drinking.
Blanks said he visits bar daily to check on the business and clean up any trash that may have accumulated.
His attorney, Michael Calogero, called Blanks “a model business owner.”
The commissioners appeared to be persuaded.
Commissioner Nyka Scott said the city failed to make the case that the bar owner had “abdicated” his responsibilities. Commissioner Robert Jackson said the city had not “met the burden” of proving the owner remiss in his duties.
Voting unanimously against revocation of the B&L’s license, committee members said that what happened was a tragedy but that the owner was not “culpable” in it.
Blanks was at the establishment early Wednesday. He declined to be interviewed.