New Orleans bars win curfew battle, party into morning hours
Live music blared and drinks poured into the early morning hours on Saturday as bar owners won a curfew battle with city officials in hurricane-crippled New Orleans.
Mayor Ray Nagin bumped the start of the curfew from midnight to 2:00 am after tavern operators in the city's famed French Quarter vowed to defiantly keep partying past the cutoff on Friday night.
Bar owners griped that the city was foolishly stifling a money-making part of the city coming back to life amid the ruins.
"As we move forward with rebuilding, we are taking steps to accommodate business while also ensuring public safety," Nagin said in a Friday release changing the curfew to 2:00 am to 6:00 am in less damaged parts of the city.
The mayor warned that bars that don't shut down by 2:00 am will be punished with fines and would "put their liquor licenses at risk."
Bourbon Street teemed with revelers, many carrying drinks and wearing Mardi Gras beads, as Friday night turned to Saturday morning.
As the old curfew deadline past, a cover band in a corner bar called Bourbon Street Blues roared a Doors song including the lyrics "let it roll, all night long" and "Save our city."
On a second-floor balcony of the bar, a pair of women bared their breasts for bead necklaces thrown up from a crowd of men on the street. Many French Quarter bars and restaurants remained dark, windows covered with plywood.
Packs of police, some wearing body armor, were stationed at each intersection along Bourbon. Officers chatted nonchalantly with passers-by.
Previous curfews were scarcely enforced in the French Quarter, which touted a raucous all-night bar scene before Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29.
A bar named Johnny White's has never closed, despite the double-blows of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
City officials clamped down on the curfew after the widely publicized beating of a 64-year-old retired school teacher by police officers on Bourbon Street on October 8.
New Orleans police saddled with a reputation for desertion, corruption and thuggery were hit with accusations of racist brutality for the African-American man's pummeling, which was recorded and broadcast by a television news crew.
Three officers involved in the incident were suspended from their jobs and criminally charged with battery. The retired teacher is accused of public drunkenness and resisting arrest.
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