Bourbon Street businesses prepare for big security vote - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Bourbon Street businesses prepare for big security vote

Thousands of tourist flocked to the French Quarter once again this weekend for Satchmo Fest, as a new push begins to try and keep them safe.

In two days, Bourbon St. businesses will consider taking action designed to prevent a repeat of what happened there one month ago.

It's one of the most famous streets in the world, where booze and profits often flow like water. Bourbon St. business owners want to keep it that way.

"If people don't feel safe, they're not going to come here," said Chris Young, with the French Quarter Business League.

One month after a mass shooting made international headlines, the 58 merchants, who make up the League, are about to consider a vote to tax themselves as much as $200 a week to put extra officers on the main five blocks of Bourbon.

"They're gonna' do it to protect their investment, customers and employees," said Young.

And that could be just the beginning. The French Quarter Management District, which would assess the fee, hire an NOPD supervisor, and buy liability insurance, hopes to spin off the Bourbon St. Security District into a voluntary program covering residents, and businesses from Bourbon to Decatur, below St. Ann Street.

"We've got a good number but I don't have what I need to start the program," said Bob Simms, with The French Quarter Management District.

The management district was looking to do three trial security areas, but has re-adjusted since a meeting Thursday.  

"I think the business community needs to step up, they're the ones making big bucks," said one resident.

District leaders are now hoping to do one other trial, residential-commercial district.

"One of the suggestions was to expand the residential pilot to Decatur Street," said Simms.

Though support for the plan is not yet assured, there's a general consensus that extra state police patrols have made a difference, and many want so see the extra manpower remain.

"It's been a very noticeable presence, and the artists say it's really great," said Pirate's Alley resident Mike Tilbury. His camera helped police arrest suspect Trung Le for the July mass shooting, in which one person was killed.

If the Bourbon Street Security District is approved this week, it will likely be on a trial basis, designed to kick in when state police leave on Labor Day weekend.

"Right now it's a six-month pilot program while we explore, long term funding mechanism," said Simms.

That long term mechanism could include another attempt at asking voters to approve a new tax.

"What seems to be bubbling up to the top is some sort of economic development, or taxing district, for security in the French Quarter," said Simms.

Not everyone's on board.

"Thousand of dollars a month [is] extremely hard. That could be half your rent, or all your rent," said resident Deborah Hicks.

Others wonder why a $5 million police surplus isn't being used in the Quarter.

"They are already taxed, and they feel like why should they have to do this," said Young.

Many believe with police manpower down 33 percent, the price tag is worth it.

"I think part of this puzzle is presence, and we need presence," said Tilbury.

But it remains to be seen how many french quarter residents are willing to pay for it.

The French Quarter Business League will meet Tuesday to discuss and possibly vote on a security assessment for the Bourbon Street promenade.

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