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Are More Bars Needed in Downtown Lafayette?

Downtown Lafayette 1        Are more bars needed in downtown Lafayette?  Today, many people enjoy their night life at bars in downtown Lafayette regardless of age or sex.  Some nighthawks overflowed bars into Jefferson Street after midnight of Friday and Saturday.  Of course, it is no match for Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but downtown Lafayette seems to be pretty vibrant.  Thus, bars can raise the spirit of the downtown, which in turn helps the economic development.  However, since proper land use is significant for the redevelopment of downtown Lafayette, too many bars obstruct the redevelopment.  Now increasing the number of bars causes some problems, so residential or other commercial land uses should precede the use of land for bars.  The number of bars in downtown Lafayette should not grow any more until effective land use measures have been taken so that downtown Lafayette will be redeveloped wholesomely.

          Downtown Lafayette went downhill after the oil boom in the 1950's and 1960's, but it is getting vibrant again through the recent prosperity of many bars.  Although it may be true that bars contribute to the redevelopment of downtown Lafayette, the haphazard growth, such as a disorderly increase in bars, will cause the same failure of the downtown's growth as after the oil boom.  Therefore, in June 2003, Lafayette City-Parish Council, in a 5-3 vote, decided to prohibit any more bars from opening in downtown (Rom, 2003).

Downtown Lafayette 2        One reason why the number of bars in downtown Lafayette should not grow any more is that a reasonable land use plan is necessary for its redevelopment.  Alexander et al. (1987) considers a reasonable balance of the land use as the first of seven rules of growth, but the ideal balance would vary from community and community depending on what the community wishes.  Downtown Lafayette aims for the mixed use development but a copy of Bourbon Street.  According to Dempsey (2003), Anton Nelessen, a nationally recognized urban planner, indicates that the ratio of alcohol-only establishments should make up only 10 percent of a downtown area's available square footage. This is the case of Lafayette.  So Nelessen judges that Lafayette City-Parish was right to stop opening bars, otherwise the city would made the same mistake as Buckhead in Atlanta (Dempsey).  The inhabitants of Buckhead are worried about "Too many bars and lots of traffic" now (Cabell, 2000). Furthermore, Nelessen suggests that restaurants and cafés including alcohol-only establishments should make up 30 percent, and this means that the other 70 percent should be shared with residential or commercial uses (Dempsey).  Therefore, because specialists of urban planning indicate the importance of a reasonable land use plan and suggest a specific plan for downtown Lafayette, it is obvious that the number of bars was grown too much and should not grow any more.

Downtown Lafayette 3        The second reason why the number of bars in downtown Lafayette should not grow any more is that residential land use should precede the use of land for bars.  Downtown Lafayette is a good place to live because of its favorable location.  There is a bus terminal, a train station and a post office, and there are many cultural facilities such as the museum and gallery, some stores such as the bakery and pharmacy, good restaurants and clean parks.  However, downtown Lafayette is faced with its lack of the residential land use.  Bringing residents to downtown is necessary for the redevelopment because it brings not only the proper rate of the land use but new businesses.  Invitations of new businesses such as grocery, hardware, clothing, book, video, jewelry stores and repair services are expected through the increase of residents (Dempsey, 2003).  The increase of residents has such a merit from an economical view point, while too many bars keeps residents away from living downtown now.  Some bars produce excessive merrymakers and invite noisy vehicles and motorcycles; to cap it all, downtown becomes dirty and noisy every weekend.  Such environmental deteriorations which are produced by bars obviously make it hard to live in downtown.

Downtown Lafayette 4        The third reason why the number of bars in downtown Lafayette should not grow any more is that commercial land use also should precede the use of land for bars.  Because downtown Lafayette is the Central Business District of Lafayette, it seems to be a good place for business.  However, downtown Lafayette is actually monotonous and tasteless for business now.  Eddie P. Mouton who owns a retail business in downtown Lafayette said "The only things left in Downtown Lafayette were the banks and government offices," and "It had a core, but it wasn't a retail core.  It was a business core, a banking core.  That kept it from getting really bad" (Dempsey, 2003, p. 17).  Some galleries and the office of The Independent magazine were newly opened, and the office of Louisiana Folk Roots moved to downtown Lafayette from Breaux Bridge recently, but downtown Lafayette still has a lack of commercial land use.  Expectative commercial land uses of downtown Lafayette are listed as follows; retail night and day, restaurants that stay open on weekends and nights, nighttime entertainment beyond bars, more service industry, grocery stores, housing, niche shopping, physical fitness, boutiques, hotels (Dempsey).  Inviting such businesses is very important for the redevelopment because these businesses promise synergistic benefits.  Paumier describes the benefits in his text book of the designing downtown; "Offices need and support restaurants, shops, personal and business services, hotel and meeting spaces, and in-town housing.  Retailing creates street-level vitality and provides convenient goods and services for office workers, residents, and visitors" (1988, p. 24).  Since the benefits of the increase of new businesses are great and solid, inviting new businesses to downtown Lafayette should precede the increase of bars.  Furthermore, although business environment is not so affected by increasing the number of bars as residential environment, environmental deteriorations by bars will limit the type of business and prevent new businesses.  Therefore, the number of bars in downtown Lafayette should not grow any more from the business point of view.

Downtown Lafayette 5        My opponents believe that bars can rapidly enliven a downtown which was once deserted, and bars surely have contributed to a business recovery of downtown Lafayette.  According to Dempsey (2003), there are 33 establishments which hold alcohol permits in downtown Lafayette, and the bar owners were quicker than most other businesses to react a hot new location.  They state that if more bars are opened, more people will come to enjoy, and downtown Lafayette will be more flourishing.  Furthermore, the rise of night life in downtown can draw not only the locals but tourists, and it may be welcome because tourism is one of the most important industries in Lafayette.  However, downtown Lafayette went downhill once and failed to develop itself.  The City of Lafayette formed the revitalization plan as "Downtown Action Plan" in 1981.  This means that the City of Lafayette already had recognized the problem of the decline of the downtown then, and the revitalization plan didn't work well because the downtown still has the same problem.  Now, downtown Lafayette has to put a well-organized plan, which has great possibilities, into practice and avoid the haphazard growth.  Furthermore, downtown Lafayette should stop depending on bars for its business recovery.  There is nobody in downtown Lafayette on Sunday, so it looks like a ghost town.  There is no place which produces recreation besides drinking on weekday evenings, so people go to the outside of downtown Lafayette.  Besides bars, other recreational institutions, which are wholesome, not casinos, need to be established so that downtown Lafayette will thrive substantially.  In addition, the fact is that increasing the number of bars has a bad influence upon bringing new residents and inviting new businesses to downtown Lafayette.

Downtown Lafayette 6        In conclusion, although the prosperity of bars brings downtown Lafayette in quick-action benefits, downtown Lafayette should not rely solely on bars now because downtown Lafayette has to avoid failure caused by a haphazard growth in order to make it in the redevelopment.  As specialists of urban planning notice, downtown Lafayette should be designed according to a reasonable balance of the land use, and the number of bars obviously exceeds the desirable number.  The residential land use should precede the use of bars because increasing the number of residents has advantages, and too many bars makes downtown Lafayette hard to live.  Moreover, new businesses besides bars are so promising that the growth of new businesses has priority over the prosperity of bars, and new businesses should not be affected by bars.  Thus, the number of bars in downtown Lafayette should not grow any more in the long run.  Are more bars still needed in downtown Lafayette even now?


        Alexander, C., Neis, H., Anninou, A., & King, I. (1987). A new theory of urban design. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
        Cabell, B. (2000, January 28). Atlanta: Nice place to visit? Out-of-towners have mixed image of Super Bowl city. CNN.com. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/01/28/atlanta.image/index.html
        City Planning Division (1981). Downtown Action Plan. Lafayette, LA: Department of Community Development, City of Lafayette.
        Dempsey, K. H. (2003, August 6). The Downtown Dilemma. The Times of Acadiana, 23(50), 15-20.
        Paumier, C. B. (1988). Designing the successful Downtown. Washington, D.C.: ULI-the Urban Land Institute.
        Rom, L. (2003, July 2). Banning Bars Bad Business. The Times of Acadiana, 23(45), 19.

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©2003 Jiro "Jireaux" Hatano