SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The choice to allow 18-20-year-olds into Shreveport bars and nightclubs hit its first stage for debate at the Shreveport Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday.
Nearly 700 people have signed the online petition to rewrite Ordinance No. 118 of 2000. That measure was given a spot for discussion during the meeting's public comments period.
"We don't anticipate to make decisions on these," District B City Councilman Jeff Everson said during the meeting. "This is a beginning of a conversation that we want to lay out."
Shreveport bar owners were also present, expressing the need to let younger adults spend their money in town and not go elsewhere. According to Natchitoches City Attorney Ronald Corkers, 18-20-year-old can even travel as close as Natchitoches to get into bars and clubs.
"Literally, right now, every other city. I mean Lafayette, Lake Charles, even Ruston, Louisiana," said Chris William, owner of Fatty Arbuckles. "I'm seeing a mass exodus of college-age students to those towns."
Chris Lyon, who started the petition, said Monday's meeting was the chance the measure needed.
"If you're an advocate, this is a small victory for us," he said. "We have our foot in the door. There's a conversation that's taking place and that's what we're asking for."
Petition supporters were invited to the meeting by District A City Councilman Willie Bradford but said he still has reservations about the measure itself.
He said he's worried certain venues won't respect the law as much as others would.
"More provocative, if you will, and I'm concerned about those and the enforcement of that line between allowing an 18-year-old into an establishment and preventing that 18-year-old from violating the drinking age law," Bradford said.
Still, by the end of the meeting, Bradford called for an additional meeting to discuss the petition exclusively. Until then, Bradford said more information needs to be gathered. He advocated sending a Shreveport Police officer out to other local towns and cities that allow 18+ in their bars and consulting their police departments on how they enforce such a measure.
Lyon said he will work with Bradford and Everson on where the process goes from this point on.