Court update: East Baton Rouge, Boil & Roux settle on fine, shorter liquor license suspension

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A Baton Rouge restaurant has reached an agreement with the East Baton Rouge city-parish government to keep its liquor license.

In court on Tuesday, April 2, the owners of Boil & Roux conceded to paying a $2,100 fine by 4:30 p.m. Friday, and their license will be suspended for 30 days.

The battle over liquor sales started just after Cinco De Mayo 2023 when the restaurant was cited for not having a special event permit it said had been approved. Maurice Walker, owner of Boil & Roux, said they’ve been subjected to harassment and held to improper standards.

In March, they filed a temporary restraining order to stop the Baton Rouge Alcoholic Beverage Control Board from making further moves to strip their license. The restaurant has been suspended from selling alcohol since February.

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“This is a compromise where my client, in this particular set of circumstances, has chosen to pause this part of the fight for the betterment of his employees,” said Ronald Haley, the attorney representing Boil & Roux.” Because if the TRO was not extended today, and we would have to go forward with a full-blown injunction hearing at a later date,”

At a court hearing on Tuesday, April 2, Chief Judge Donald Johnson ordered both sides to find common grounds for the settlement.

The agreement dropped the TRO, and the ABC Board plans a more in-depth discussion about the restaurant on Thursday, April 11.

Haley said the ABC Board also talked about reducing the suspension length at a meeting on Monday.

“Hopefully the winds of leniency continue to blow and that after the 11th we can put this chapter to bed,” Haley said.

What happened, when?

In March 2023, the restaurant reportedly reached out to the District 8 councilwoman for the approval of a special event permit. A special event permit lets businesses hold events outdoors.

According to documents filed in court, the restaurant’s permits have been approved since 2016. The restraining order application said Councilwoman Denise Amoroso replied to the owner, Maurice Walker saying she would sign off on the special event permit.

BRProud reached out to the councilwoman but has not received a response.

The permit was reportedly approved at 11 a.m. May 5, 2023, but Walker couldn’t pick up the copy. His attorney at the time, Jack Whitehead was sent to pick it up but was turned away, according to the TRO request.

The owner didn’t have a physical copy of the permit inside the establishment on Cinco De Mayo.

They were cited and fined for selling liquor at the event and given a three-week suspension.

Boil & Roux lost $120,000 in sales due to that suspension, according to Walker. He said that, and the fight since then, has been unfair.

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On Dec. 7, 2023, the ABC Board met for a hearing referencing the Cinco De Mayo matter. They set a $350 fine regarding the special events application fee and implied the outside dining area must be moved 12 inches from the sidewalk.

The ABC Board ordered Boil & Roux to attend a Jan. 12 meeting to ensure renovations were up to code and to get approval from the permit office.

They were not able to get the patio up to code by the meeting and asked for an extension.

The establishment was granted a 45-day extension by Blake Steiner from the permit office to complete the ABC requirements.

However, the board was unaware that Steiner granted Walker the extension. Before the expiration of the 45 days, Walker was cited for selling without a permit, according to the TRO request.

The ABC Board suspended Boil & Roux’s license for 60 days, issued a $2,100 fine and placed them on a year of probation, according to the temporary restraining order request.

ABC Board member Geno McLaughlin said the board could have missed that the restaurant needed more time because of the holidays.

BRProud reached out for a comment from the permit office about the regulations and policies businesses must follow for permit approvals. Instead of a response from that office, the city shared information from its permit website.

According to the restaurant, alcohol was only sold inside, other than on Cinco De Mayo. They say that other businesses in East Baton Rouge Parish have not had to stop selling alcohol while renovating their building.

“You know some of the concerns or some of the complaints have been, you know, uh, around you know, Cinco De Mayo, people dancing in the streets. Well, what we also hear that there are other patrons from other businesses on days like Cinco De Mayo that are walking in the streets, going from business to business. And so … how can I be assured that, you know, the people that you are filming, the people that you are talking about that are in the streets and they’re taking their drink from one business to the next, how do I know that is Boil & Roux patrons?” McLaughlin said.

On March 14, the restaurant requested a temporary restraining order against the city-parish and the ABC Board. Per the documentation, Boil & Roux has managed a valid occupancy permit since 2014. That means authorities have inspected the property and confirmed that the business has complied with building codes and is safe to use.

The compromise eliminated the TRO, and the ABC Board will further consider the issue at a meeting later this month.

He said this puts the issue behind him but will hurt his revenue.

“When I was suspended and lost my license, I lost over $100 grand just within a month, so, again, this going to happen again. It’s going to be another $100 thousand plus that I’m going to lose within these next 30 days, and that’s not good for business,” Walker said.

In a separate statement, Walker said he still has reservations about what’s happened.

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“More concerning is the direct infringement on my First Amendment rights by a certain Councilwoman Denise Amoroso. Her actions, from restricting political expression to misusing her authority to target my business and personal beliefs, are not only ethically wrong but illegal. Such misuse of power to manipulate city regulations against my establishment cannot go unchallenged.

“This fight is about more than just a permit or a suspension; it’s about standing up against a system that seeks to silence and intimidate us. It’s about ensuring fairness, transparency, and justice for all businesses and their owners, regardless of the challenges we face.”

Maurice Walker, Boil & Roux owner

Walker also said they plan to launch a food truck on Harding Boulevard and have special plans for their Cinco de Mayo event this year.

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