Gretna restaurant owner says traffic citation increase is driving away customers

GRETNA, La. (WGNO) — A restaurant owner on the West Bank says he’s losing customers because officers with the Gretna Police Department have been slamming his customers with traffic tickets in recent weeks.

“It’s 12:00 in the afternoon and already five cars got stopped in our area, not just for the stop sign, but for whatever minuscule reason. Might be maybe a brake tag, or whatever it is, but it’s all activity happening within the radius of our restaurant,” said Owner of Chicken’s Kitchen Marlon Williams.

According to Williams, it all began a little over six weeks ago, when he was ticketed by an officer after allegedly running a stop sign. He soon realized that the same police officer had stopped him weeks prior. Williams said he then started to see a pattern of police patrolling his restaurant.

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“What I saw, at first, I thought it was temperature checking, just make sure you stop. I’m thinking he warned people initially, and then I start to find out, people are actually getting cited for these things,” said Williams.

However, Deputy Police Chief Jason DiMarco says the traffic citations have nothing to do with Williams or his restaurant.

“That area has been a problem for decades. There’s nothing to do with the restaurant. We had problems long before the restaurant got there,” said DiMarco.

Almost all of the violations Williams customers have been receiving center around a stop sign that was put in nearly 16 months ago, after the police department received complaints about people speeding down that road.

“We don’t get quite as many speeding complaints, but now we get more complaints for the stop signs. So, we’re out there and we enforce it,” said DiMarco.

But Williams says it’s driving away customers.

“I have dozens of testimonials in my comments. If you want to go to our Instagram, there’s Chicken’s Kitchen Two. So, there’s testimonies from people saying, that’s the reason why they don’t come around here. I have direct messages like, man, I used to come here regularly and now I just don’t want to be messed with.”

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A traffic ticket can cost well over a couple hundred dollars, depending on the violation. For that reason, Williams is calling it a human rights issue, saying that amount of money could leave a family without food for a week.

“They’re digging in our pockets, you know. I mean, and the people who pay for it most are the poor,” said Williams.

Both Williams and DiMarco have met to talk. DiMarco called the conversation positive while Williams says he left feeling unhopeful.

“We had an adult conversation. He explained his concerns. We explained our position, why we’re there, that it has nothing to do with his establishment,” said DiMarco.

“Some, I understand some situations, but these aren’t major crimes. I mean, give people a break!” said Williams.

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