Last week, Metro Council passed an ordinance that will spend $577,000 from the city’s general fund to add three Alcohol and Beverage Control officers and five Property Maintenance code enforcement officers.
Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-8, who originally introduced the ordinance, said it aims to enhance public safety.
“We have seen an increase in businesses that are making a profit off of creating public safety risks — off of letting people into their establishments with guns, off of having a lax attitude towards inviting the public into their businesses and then creating an unsafe situation for that public,” she said on Thursday ahead of the vote. “This ordinance is designed to address that by giving codes and regulations the tools that they need to be able to hold those businesses accountable.”
After several early morning shootings along Bardstown Road in recent months, Armstrong introduced a temporary ordinance to make Louisville’s bars close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. in an attempt to stem violence. But, after facing backlash from the local bar and nightlife industry — and their patrons — Armstrong later backed off the idea and turned to getting the city more more Alcohol and Beverage Control officers.
Currently, the city has just six Alcohol and Beverage Control employees who oversee the more than 1,300 Louisville businesses that have liquor licenses. Alcohol and Beverage Control officers have full police powers to enforce local laws. The ordinance states that the hiring of more officers will help Alcohol and Beverage Control make sure businesses are in compliance, give the department a greater ability to investigate allegations and allow them to provide training to establishments.
Initially, the ordinance called for $388,000 of federal COVID relief money Louisville is receiving under the American Rescue Plan to be used to hire more officers. A floor amendment from Armstrong lowered the amount needed to $339,000 and changed the source of funding to the city’s general fund, which she said was expected to have a surplus that would easily cover the amount.
A subsequent floor amendment introduced by councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, bumped the amount up to $577,000 to allow for the hiring of five additional Property Maintenance Division code enforcement officers in addition to the Alcohol and Beverage Control officers.
Several Metro Council members, including Bill Hollander, D-9, and Marcus Winkler, D-17, opposed the amendment saying while they believed there had to be more code enforcement officers, they wanted to discuss any funding in further detail while also speaking with Property Maintenance staff.
Donna Purvis, D-5, whose district lies in Louisville’s West End, spoke with passion to those who were against the hiring of more code enforcement officers.
“All of your districts are clean. You don’t have vacant houses. You don’t have prostitution going on in vacant houses. You don’t have drug addicts in vacant houses stealing electricity, threatening nearby neighbors,” she said. “You don’t have abandoned properties with tall grass and rodents throughout the community. You don’t have trash littered alleys in streets. We need help down here.”
She added: “I’m disappointed that you all think that you can put my quality of living along with my constituents on hold. I shouldn’t be angry, but I am. I’m disappointed. But I’m letting you know that it’s not fair to think that you all can continue to discount the living outside of your perfect areas. You all have been down here.”
Ackerson’s amendment narrowly passed 12-11. Speaking to LEO Weekly, Armstrong said she was initially against the amendment but was moved after listening to discussion about the urgent need for more code enforcement officers in Louisville’s West End.
The vote on the ordinance as a whole — including Ackerson’s amendment — passed unanimously.
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