Criminal Justice

Uptown hangout to close after 47 underage patrons found

Update: Owner to appeal order.

Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer

A popular Uptown college hangout has been shut down temporarily after a police raid that ensnared 47 underage drinkers, including the son of a prominent former state legislator, police said.

Friar Tuck’s Bar, on Freret Street just blocks away from Tulane and Loyola universities, on Tuesday was ordered closed for 30 days by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The order isn’t effective immediately, and the bar won’t close until mid-January.

The raid took place after a woman called to report an earlier incident in which her underage son was discovered drunk and passed out. She told police that he identified Friar Tuck’s as the place where he was served alcohol, said New Orleans Police detective Norbert Carroll, who presented the case to the board.

The raid happened June 17, during a happy hour basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

“There were over 60 people in the bar, mostly neighborhood drinkers, sitting at the bar laughing and joking,” Carroll said.

Carroll identified one 17-year-old who he said was drinking, adding, “his daddy is Sherman Copelin.”

Copelin is a former Louisiana House representative from eastern New Orleans, and has been active in recovery issues since the storm. The eastern New Orleans businessman now serves as the vice president of the New Orleans Regional Business Park, a 7,000-acre piece of city property.

Carroll said the underage patrons were released without being cited.

Reached Wednesday, a spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department said he’d look into why the underage individuals were not cited and provide a comment.

Attorney Thomas Milliner represented bar owner Jason Blitch, who said he had invested in an identification detection system that would keep out underage drinkers.  He was unable to retrieve the data from the system to prove it had been in use.

The board also heard testimony about the bar’s delinquent city taxes.

Blitch and his mother acquired the business in 2001, and she died in 2009 after a lengthy illness. Blitch said she was in charge of accounting, and he said the non-payment of taxes was her fault.

Attorney Dan MacNamara, who represents the city, claimed that Blitch offered nothing but excuses for both the underage patrons as well as tax problems.

“This is a person who should not operate an ABO [alcoholic beverage outlet] in this city,” MacNamara said.

Further clouding the issue was the fact that the bar legally lets patron between the ages of 18 to 21 enter the bar but are not allowed to drink alcohol.

Milliner said the police didn’t distinguish between those drinking and those not at the time of the raid.

“This list is all the people in the bar,” he said. “You can’t identify people who were drinking that night.”

That’s when Carroll offered up the name of the younger Copelin, who is now 18. Millner pressed to see if police searched him for a fake ID, and Carroll said the police had not.

Police did not name any other patrons during the hearing.

Milliner presented copies of the bar’s video surveillance tape that shows the police had actually herded one of the underage individuals into the building during the raid.

The police do not deny that one of the underage patrons was brought in with them, but board member Jerry Speir said one person hardly makes a difference in this case.

“You had an event where there were 60 people, three-quarters of them are under 21, and nine of them were under 17,” he said.

The board, led by Nyka Scott, made its decision five hours after the hearing began, saying the city had proven its case. The 30-day suspension also came with a $500 fine.

The bar is allowed to continue to operate throughout the holiday season with a closure from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, to generate money to pay the fines and taxes owed the city.

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • netta

    Great!!! Finally something has happened with this nuisance of a bar. I live in that neighborhood and it’s absolutely disgusting the things that go on there. Noise violations, underage drinking and drugs being sold. The owner is well aware of this problem and turns a blind eye to it. I hope it gets shut down for good. People in that neighborhood deserve a better quality of life and we had that, until this piece of noise and destruction came through here.

  • Boyindahood

    So sad. I remember spending the Saturday night before Katrina hit there. That bar will always hold a special place in mi corazón.

  • always_right

    I lived in that bar for many years – always of age to be in the bar (18) and there were many people in that bar that should not have been there, however it was always kept under control and never were there problems within the bar, I think its ridiculous the mother of an underage drinker is pissed at the bar – she should be mad at herself for her lack of parenting and lack of control over her 17 year old. If i remember correctly, I was not allowed out past 11 pm until I was 18 (legal to go out in most New Orleans bars) and my parents knew where I was at all times and communicated with my friends and their parents. Its called PARENTING!!!! Your 17 year old is not your friend, control them and they wont make stupid decisions…

  • nice

    This is the investigative journalism of The Lens?

    This just in. Sherman Copelin’s son at underage sting in Uptown bar. Nice. When you’re finished with this can you do an update on the boyfriend of the daughter of the niece of the cousin that knows the police chief?

    Soros sure is getting his money’s worth.

  • Long Live Tucks

    First off, welcome to New Orleans, and welcome to every college town in the U.S. To incriminate Tucks Bar and Grill individually is justification to incriminate almost every bar in the the city. Not to mention, convenience stores, gas stations, the list goes on. I imagine we should shut those down as well. Oh wait, the state would never shut down bars or clubs along bourbon street because partying is our primary source of tourist revenue…ironic.

    Second, @netta, I’m assuming that you’ve never had a sip of alcohol before you were legally able. If so, amazing- you are a saint and you’re completely justified. If not, then you’re a hypocrite, and you should probably find another place to live -like perhaps Kansas or Montana…

    Also to reiterate what @always_right said, parenting is the problem, and the inability to control one’s child does not make it right to place the blame on others. Fail. Tucks has always ID’d at the door and it can’t help it if under agers just have really really good fake ID’s, which by the way, are extremely accessible these days.

    Long live Tucks.

  • Pro-Tucks

    This is ridiculous. Not only are NOPD and the Orleans Sheriff’s department more than aware of what goes on in college bars (i.e., The Boot, Tucks, TJ Quills, Rocco’s, et al.) with underage drinking and under-18 patronage, but many parents are too. If you as a parent are not in the know of what the New Orleans underage drinking culture is, then you have failed to be aware of what goes on beyond your well-manicured lawns. Give me a break.

    Tucks is first and foremost a neighborhood bar that has been properly zoned for this area. If you live by there and don’t like the noise, then move or write to your councilman/representative that they have zoned a residential neighborhood. However, you will obviously lose because the elected officials of that area are actively TRYING to bring business and nightlife to the Freret St corridor from Napoleon to Nashville. Further, the drug problem is a result of many of the people who live in that area. You’re talking about an area that is blocks away from Newman, McMain, Ursuline Fortier, and Lusher High Schools, and Tulane and Loyola University. Drugs are a HUGE problem outside of this bar because of the schools close by being targeted by dealers preying on students. For every deal that might happen in this one bar, I would guarantee there are dozens more on the surrounding streets and in cars parked on corners.

    Finally, while Jason may offer nothing but excuses and is most likely aware of what is going on inside, he is not your son or daughter’s guardian or babysitter. He is a business owner. His business caters to adults (including your 18 year old angels who choose, as adults, to make illegal decisions and drink underage). I have personally witnessed men in their 40’s being bounced from the bar for being overly intoxicated. Additionally, while it is not required for them to ID at the bar once the ID process (which is pretty strict and more technologically secure than say, EVERY bar on Maple St) is conducted at the door, I have seen and been ID’d again at the bar both during happy hour times and after 9PM. This is a poorly targeted instance by our law enforcement officials to save face to upset parents.

    Count on my patronage again in the spring with free crawfish Friday’s at Tucks.

  • tux groupie

    “netta” with all do respect, there is nothing “quality” about that neighborhood. In fact, half of the neighborhood are groupies just like myself. The bar was the nicest thing on the block. FEB 15 FREE TUX.

  • Burma Jones

    “The raid took place after a woman called to report an earlier incident in which her underage son was discovered drunk and passed out.”

    Uh… snitch!

  • Long live Tucks…

    If you’re going to be willing to raise your child in New Orleans, then you have no right to be upset at anyone but yourself for your child drinking underage. While it is a great place to grow up, underage drinking is a prevalent part of the culture in New Orleans. If the mother wants to blame anyone, she should take the blame for not keeping tabs on her child- she should not blame New Orleans, she should not blame Tucks.

  • Chris

    I live in the area and love what is happening on Freret St. However Friar Tucks has been a plague on this neighborhood for a long time. There are constantly fights breaking out, people yelling and screaming, and often there are drunk drivers speeding the wrong way down one way streets. The bar has been raided several times and is notorious for being an underage drinking establishment.

    I’d love a neighborhood bar that I could go to and actually enjoy a beer after work. However this establishment has been nothing but trouble and I would be glad to see it go and be replaced by something that would make the neighborhood proud. It doesn’t have to be as high end and upscale as Cure but anything would be better than Tucks!

  • FucktheFalcons

    Damn. I guess all the underage drinkers will now have to move to the next biggest dump, The Frat House

  • Anne

    Why didn’t the kid tell his mom that a homeless man bought him beer? Ruin underage drinking for everyone else why don’t you!

  • nolagirl

    I’m so sick of snooty people complaining about the bars in the Loyola/Tulane area. YOU decided to live by a college campus! If you want peace and quiet then move to the suburbs. The world does not revolve around you or your boring lifestyle.

  • Really?

    @netta, you blame the bar for all these things? I don’t think the bar is to blame but the neighborhood and the people who live around there. Your neighborhood is the ‘nuisance’ considering I know more than a hand full of people who has had their cars broken into and vandalized and had everything stolen out of it, as my car has been. It’s the people who LIVE in that neighborhood that are up to no good, not the people who frequent the bar. Also, use your brain. You live by a fricken bar in NEW ORLEANS, of course there is going to be noise! What did you expect? Silence?