Crackdown or Takeover: Nola Urban Party Buses

Last week Mayor Cantrell’s administration Zach Smith, the city’s director of Safety and Permits, said that “Out of dozens of party buses operating in the city not a single one has the required Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience, or CPNC, to do so a single New Orleans party bus in legal status” and I hear the sounds of wealthy people toasting to the news.

 

Urban Party Buses have been rolling down the streets of New Orleans for years before Katrina without the city calling for the owners to take action, a few talks of neighborhood bans because of noise, but never talk of pulling a party bus over and ending the party. The first thing that comes to mind is, how will everyone get back to the pickup location, where they left their vehicles? I’m wondering why the city director’s words felt intimadating and lacked compassion for the owners?

I may not be right, but my gut is telling me that the party bus crackdown is one more step towards the complete gentrification of Urban New Orleans led by the wealthy folks who moved or traveled here only to capitalize on New Orleans tourism.

Millions, if not billions of dollars in profit has been made by those who swooped in after Katrina as if they were waiting on the day to take over the city. These people were not concerned about New Orleans Urban Black communities who were displaced nor paid attention to our passionate hustle to create a legacy for our families. Their concern was focused on what we had and how to rip the rug from under us without us knowing.

I’m still in shocked that I’m renting and my Daddy and Grandmother left their homes for us. The vultures didn’t get us, Katrina did I tell myself as I visit our lots.”Don’t let them fool ya” in my Bob Marley voice, Road Home wasn’t enough to get me home to watch the demolition crew tear the houses down. Let me not get lost, because I felt it coming. We on Urban Party Buses and I refer to them as such to let you know there’s a difference from culture to pricing. And I’ll touch on that in the blog.

I understand and agree for the need for exclusive licensing, regulations and even a time limit on how long a Party Bus can play loud music in public neighborhoods. We all have to abide by law, and there are rules we must follow when we get behind the wheel of any mode of transportation, such as having adequate insurance, valid drivers license and registration, but the Urban Party Bus owners should not fall under the taxi and rideshare regulations such as Lyft, because they are not corporations. Doing so will make it hard for those who have successfully and safely operated to remain open. How this issue is being addressed seems bias and uncaring.

We’ve contacted a lot of people to ask them to come in and get checked out … The phone clicks down or ‘we’ll get back to you,’” and then no one ever does, Smith said. “As of this phone call there’s not a charter party vehicle” operating with a CPNC.

So, Why now? What significant factor came into play for the city officials to finally notice that all of these businesses were operating without their consent, without passing their inspection and without complying?  Do you know what happened? The Wealthy Businessman, the owners of your companies with fleets of buses and limousines, happened. Plus they know it’s in our DNA to avoid and retreat when we are stressed about what the man can do and take from us. We have to get out of this “stinking thinking” as my pastor used to say. Answer your phones, go down to City Hall and fill out the paperwork even if you do not have all of the money and if that’s the case ask for assistance.

“If party buses are operating without a CPNC, Smith said that either a Safety and Permits officer of a New Orleans Police Department officials would stop the limousine and order it unloaded. An operator could be ticketed or arrested, Smith said, and the vehicle could be impounded.”

“It absolutely could involve your party being ended right after it started,” Smith said.

The mere thought of that scene is stressful, and I can only imagine how the owners and customers would feel if the party was shut down the moment they were scheduled to depart. If you know where the party bus will pick up their clients, who will have food, liquor, balloons, and other guests. I’m pretty sure you know where the owner parks the bus as well. Why not go to the owner’s house and put a boot on it during the week, not the day of… It sounds pretty intimidating, drastic and embarrassing to me. Yes, please wait until the party buses are filled with paying customers, who paid for liquor and food, spent gas money to get to the pickup location and once they are ready to roll the police swoop in to stop the party before it starts?? That’s what Zach Smith said, but I broke it down for you all. Why wait until that very moment and why punish the customers as well?

As of today, April 18, 2019, the New Orleans OneStop Site states:

Presently we are only accepting applications for the issuance of new CPNCs for AT Taxicab (Wheelchair-accessible), Courtesy, Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, General Charter, and Sightseeing.

All available CPNC numbers for Taxicabs, Pedicabs, Animal Drawn, have been awarded.

 

If you noticed it does not list “Party Bus” which is written in as Charter Party Carrier (Party Bus) in the description:

Certificates of Public Necessity (or CPNCs) are required of all for hire vehicles – AT Taxicab (Wheelchair-accessible), Pedicabs, Animal Drawn, Courtesy, Limousine, Taxicab, Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, General Charter, School Bus, Charter Party Carrier (Party Bus), Sightseeing.

There’s a “General Charter” listed as well, would it be safe to assume if the Urban Party Bus owners go down to OneStop they would be informed that the city is no longer accepting applications for party buses. If so where does this leave the Party Bus Owners??

 After years of being self-employed in the restaurant industry, I know too well the fear that takes over within your being to the point of avoiding them and the next you know your business has been taken.

The plan of action is put them out of business by way of invoking fear, subjecting the owners to fees they can not afford and implementing city compliance; they aren’t able to satisfy by the deadline. It’s all a set up that started from noise complaints and now there’s a list to assist with shutting the buses down.

If the city officials mentioned that the fees associated with the obtaining permits and licenses aren’t that expensive and there are small business resources that may be able to help financially and legally. I actually went on the New Orleans One-Stop site and was surprised to see the fees listed are fair for business startup and found that liability insurance is the most expensive requirement. But living in New Orleans and paying for auto insurance will have you looking for pennies for gas.

Duration:  Type Expiration Date Renewal Deadline Airport Shuttle June 30 July 31 Animal Drawn Carriage March 31 April 30 Courtesy March 31 April 30 School Bus April 30 May 31 General Charter June 30 July 31 Limousine June 30 July 31 Non-Emergency Medical June 30 July 31 Pedicab March 31 April 30 Sightseeing June 30 July 31 Taxi & AT December 31 January 31 Unless scheduled for a later date, in the month following the renewal deadline, a renewal fee and penalty of $150.00   Unless scheduled for a later date, in the 2nd month following the renewal deadline,  $150.00 penalty for the first month plus $150 penalty for the second month $150.00.   CPNCs not renewed within 3 months of the Expiration Date (within 2 months of the Renewal Deadline)  will be suspended and set for revocation
Certificate of public convenience and necessity is a permit issued by a public body that is charged with the supervision of public facilities, e.g., carriers or public utilities. It authorizes the holder of the permit to operate such a public facility within a particular area. FEES Due at the time of issuance: General: $100 Courtesy Vehicle: $300 AT (Wheel-chair accessible) Taxi: $300

 

I wonder if the city official wouldn’t have made this same statement had it been businesses that service the tourist? More than likely not, because the negative press would affect the tourism industry and the Urban Party Buses aren’t included in this pot. 

Plus, this news comes at the start of the auspicious festival season, and the statements made by the city rep are enough to sabotage and closed down the Urban Party Bus business. But maybe this is their plan after all.Consumers read business reviews such as Yelp, and the statement is, in essence, giving potential customers warnings of financial loss and inconvenience if they were to do business with these party buses. I actually have a party bus booked for Essence Festival and now I’m worried about not only my money and guest who expect to see New Orleans, but the businesses.

The urban communities in New Orleans have all but been stolen out from under us, and we create these side hustles to supplement our minimum wage earnings to be able to live here. Do we have any chance to survive or will the last of us be forced out, because of gentrification?

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The Urban Party Buses have a small start-up, up to cost, no need for financing, because buses are typically brought from public auctions, unlike the cost associated with starting a High-End Transportation Party Services. The buses keep numerous drunk drivers off the road, preventing car accidents and DWI arrest. The teen’s riders are all in one location having fun and off the streets with idle minds. There hasn’t been a significant accident involving a party bus in New Orleans since 1999. I did not find any crimes related to a party bus, which is why the officials had to find other safety issues to point out such as seat belts. Let’s not forget our children ride on these same school buses every weekday.

 

The importance of seat belts, I would beg the Department of Public Safety to address the fact that our babies are seatbelt-less on school buses. I never understood why there are no seat belts on a bus transporting so many children at once? There have been numerous school bud accidents that resulted in deaths and injury of our children. Parents are fined if kids are found without car seats or even if the child puts the chest strap behind their backs. We are OK with our children riding without seat belts, but we are more concerned about Urban Party Goers being seated and strapped in?? Really?

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Not only is Urban Party Buses a party on wheels, but they have proven to be owned and driven by responsible individuals, the buses do not sit in one location which may help with altercations, the teens are accounted for and not on Bourbon St, and our roads have fewer intoxicated drivers. Sounds like excellent service and a great resource especially in a city with a high DWI rate.

 

In businesses across the board pricing, race, financial and educational status are the dividing factors. The Urban Party Bus and VIP Transportation services only differed in those categories, other than that neither bus had seat belts, served alcohol, played loud music, guest danced while in motion and guest were instructed to sit while on the open road or highways. Another difference and I agree with the city officials on the portable toilets, the Limo Party Bus had a built-in bathroom like on the Greyhound and charter buses, and a few of the Urban Party Buses had Port-A-Pots, but then again Mardi Gras float has them too.

Mardi Gras floats which carry people on open trailers like some Urban Party Buses, but the floats are exempt from the regulations because they go slow… Hmm, I don’t get it seems bias to me especially given that there is a doubt that trailers will be allowed for businesses, well Urban Party Bus business. Why are the owners of two same vehicles types given different rule sets? Perhaps it’s the type of music playing, or it may be the race and status of the riders? Then again Mardi Gras lines the pockets of everyone except the participants who go broke to ensure we have beautiful throws to catch at Mardi Gras. To ride on that open trailer during Mardi Gras compared to riding on a regular weekend on an Urban Party Bus differs in ownership and about $500+ for one person.

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I have partied on the budget-friendly, no air-conditioner, renovated yellow school bus, BYOB and BYOF Urban Party Buses and on the very expensive, all inclusive, luxury VIP Limo Party Buses. And if I had to choose out of the two at this moment, I’ll jump on an Urban Party Bus. The experience is priceless and phenomenal. If you never partied on a New Orleans Urban Party Bus, then babe you haven’t partied in New Orleans!

There’s something sinfully satisfying with cruising the streets of New Orleans and turning up on what was once a school bus. Maybe that’s it! You slip into the nostalgia of the fountain of youth once you step on the bus. The familiar pleasant smell of the old bus awakes your exciting carefree youthful days giving you the courage to swing on the strip pole, P-Pop on anything stable and laugh until your drink comes out your nose. The bus has a personality of its own as it glides down the city’s streets with its horn shouting “Laissez les bon temps roulez” and you can’t help but join in until you’re hoarse!

The heart and soul of New Orleans are alive in all the guest on the party bus. There was no time to put on airs nor find the time to create drama; we are free to get lost in the magical fun night in New Orleans. The DJ plays the hottest Nola music that has you grooving in your seat and dirty dancing in the tightly pack aisle of the dance floor unfazed by the humidity and sweat forming in the small of our backs and across our forehead. And Yes, we did dance up a sweat, literally, but it was brief, and relief came thru the windows as the current sweet New Orleans air flow through the bus just long enough to cool you off till your next song came on. The clicking sound of the windows was precisely how I remember, but no bus driver is yelling, “Leave the window alone lil girl!” lol

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The Limo Party Bus is more for a close-knit group of people who are celebrating an occasion such as a Bachelorette Party or a group of employees who are in town for a conference. Yes, they will let their hair down, but they will only do it within the confines of the ”Tourist Trap,” and that’s as far as the limo bus takes them. Boring, huh? At least ride you all fancy behinds up St. Charles, stop at the Daiquiri Shop on the Riverbend and turn around. Unlike, the VIP Party Bus packages in Vegas where you are driven off the strip to upscale clubs, in New Orleans the nightclubs that are patronized by tourists are all located downtown. Whereas, on certain Urban Party Buses and depending on your what degree of bougie you will determine on how much variety you can have. If you are like me and can hang at Hole in the Wall to sitting in the VIP section sipping champagne to sitting on the party bus under the Claiborne Bridge something up with takeout plate of grits, eggs and hot sausage talking to the other party-goers about how much we clowned tonight swearing never to tell anyone who wasn’t there about y’ all.

The party bus, club, and attraction put stops are planned endless possibilities of fun, allowing for more opportunities to mingle and experience The Real Nola. You will meet new people with similar interest based on the theme of that bus ride, such as it may be Sunday and you’re at your first-second line! You will have a range of emotions, and your new friends will have you doing your version of Nola Footwork down the streets and back on the bus. That’s New Orleans, her spirit can bring an unlikely pair together, and the result is as sweet and delicious as New Orleans bread pudding; you that kind that has you coming back for more!

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The New Orleanians who never left and those who returned done so with great sacrifice and love for New Orleans. I identified with the feeling of hearing your name in the wind and pulled off your heartstrings, and there’s no ignoring that feeling. We are here trying to make ends meet to pay bills; there’s hardly extra money left to splurge on shopping or vacations. The Poor Working class use their creative minds to make extra income as in the case of turning old yellow school buses into a profitable business. Our ancestors have been working their magic since they stepped their bounded feet on the levees of New Orleans and we follow in their paths to ensure that our stories, culture, and traditions are passed down.

 

Once again we have to use what we learned from Hurricane Katrina making sure we do not repeat our own mistakes and the governments.

They make it very hard when you are poor and working, and then they wonder why people are depressed, addicted to drugs and committing crimes. It’s the greed and insensitivity of those in power. You took their homes, jobs, business and you see he survived that now you will strip him of his hope. You are watching him cruise down the street in his homemade company, and you are impressed, but you do not tell him. You look for loopholes, and once you find them, you throw salt on his efforts and hard work. And while he is trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents to comply with your rules and regulations. Its too late, your business is confiscated, and you are left with fines to pay, or the Man will take the food out of your babies mouths. Mr.Wealthy Weasel and his business partners greased palms and opened up the very same business and there nothing you can do about it.

The one thing, well one person who can stop this and help these business owners is our mayor. She has proven that she is for the people of New Orleans and has been up close and personal with us, she knows our stories and hearts. I hope she takes another look at the issue and how the reader, the owners may have received it. If the owner has been rolling for some years, have excellent customer reviews, has a written history of transactions have no personal driving or dangerous criminal and record, etc. they should be given a fair opportunity to do what is needed for the city to keep their businesses open.

Once again we have to use what we learned from Hurricane Katrina making sure we do not repeat our own mistakes and the governments.

Photo Credit:Advocate Staff Matthew Hinton
‘It’s gotta be we:’ LaToya Cantrell ready to move New Orleans forward, together, as city’s new mayor

You may wonder why there was no mention of resources, business classes and so on? The city could have put a list of nonprofit agencies that may be able to help with resolving their issues or listed a mental health professional for those who voiced concern over the possible loss of their business. Does the city care that these businesses may shit down or is that their plan?

Let get out of this “stinking thinking” as my Pastor referred to a stagnant negative mindset and get these business legal! We must not repeat the mistakes we made before, and after Hurricane Katrina, we lost so much, conned out of families homes but the very same people who are waiting to strike, taking us completely out of New Orleans. Learn from those mistakes, the city will have no qualms about taking your bus because you did not pay the $50 fee and sell it for $5k. It’s not like they haven’t done it already. Get your ducks in order and get a piece of the Nola Tourism Industry’s pie. Think about it.  

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I will list the things needed for the owners to get their affairs in order in a separate blog

 

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