State tobacco stings target bars around New Orleans

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Dos Jefes bar on Tchoupitoulas was one of many targets in New Orleans of a federally-funded tobacco-compliance sting, but city officials decided Tuesday not to fine the establishment. (Robert Morris,

Early in May, a 15-year-old boy walked into Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar on Tchoupitoulas, asked if they sold cigarettes and purchased a pack from the machine.

That boy was assisting agents with the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, however, and the purchase landed Dos Jefes in front of the city Alcohol Beverage Control board on Tuesday morning, along with several New Orleans other bars in the first wave of a three-year, federally-funded enforcement effort.

In the Dos Jefes case, the informant asked if the bar sold cigarettes, then headed over to the machine and bought them, testified a state Alcohol Tobacco Control agent. Dos Jefes Proprietor Shawn Stallard argued that his busy bartender barely even saw the teenager when he was asking, and that as soon as he realized the customer was young-looking, he signaled to Stallard and the kid was promptly ordered to leave.

The city alcohol board had more questions about the sting and their role punishing it than about the sale of the cigarettes. Board member Jerry Speir, for example, questioned whether the Alcohol Beverage Control board even had jurisdiction over such violations, though the city attorney explained that restricting sale of tobacco is a condition of the alcohol license.

After about a half hour of discussion, alcohol board members decided that by adding a doorman specifically tasked with checking IDs, Dos Jefes (which two years ago was congratulated by the state ATC for passing a similar sting) had paid its penance and needed no additional penalty.

“I think the corrective action they have taken is enough to satisfy me personally,” said board member Nyka Scott.

The proceeding sheds light on charges still pending against two other popular Uptown bars, Cooter Brown’s and Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club, which are currently set for hearings in September. Both were caught in the same sting as Dos Jefes, said ATC agent Jeff Onstott, which is based on a three-year tobacco-compliance program funded by a grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Many more bars have already sold to the ATC informants, Onstatt said, and their charges may reach the city docket soon. Wit’s Inn in Mid-City, for example, was fined $100 on Tuesday for a similar charge, with the board opting for the slightly harsher punishment because the 15-year-old made it in and out of the bar without anyone questioning his age.

After the hearing, Stallard said he appreciated the board’s judgment Tuesday, but was frustrated by the state’s decision to target him in a sting.

“We haven’t had any minors in there until he brought one,” Stallard said, criticizing the entire sting as an unreliable form of entrapment. “He’s taking the word of a 15-year-old kid.”

To read our live coverage of Tuesday’s meeting, click in the box below.

5 thoughts on “State tobacco stings target bars around New Orleans

  1. It maybe a federally-funded enforcement effort, but only in Susan Guidrys district. The bars on Maple, and these 3 are all in her district. They will never do this in the other Tourist taxed area. The reason why uptown has been so quiet is the 17-20 yr olds have moved to the wherehouse district and the fq. No chance they ever check bourbon heat, red eye or The republic. I am glad Susan Guidry is using the money to stop underage drinking because she can’t do anything else right in her district.

  2. Seems to be they could have covert video , like a button cam or eyeglass cam to collect irrefutable evidence. I’m sure the grant would cover that. They are not that expensive.

  3. Years ago the Feds blackmailed my then 20-year-old-girlfriend into trying to buy alcohol from a bar. She stalled until she turned 21 thinking they would leave her alone so they then gave her a bag of pot to plant on an unsuspecting patron in the same bar. We notified local cops of the Feds undercover actions and the program quickly came to a halt. Feds do not play fair. What about an undercover sting at a gun store?

  4. its a Federal program and the council members do not get to choose what area its done in. Didnt you listen or read that its going on across the state.

  5. Thank you, Mr. Morris, for the detailed account of this Kafka-like sting operation. The actions by the employees at Dos Jefe’s seemed to be the right thing to do when the “stinger” came in. The court, at first, took the predictable attitude of “guilty no matter what you do”. The Dos Jefe’s people took absolutely appropriate action immediately, even though the “stinger” managed to get inside and “do his duty” before anyone could respond. This is the same procedure a mugger uses. The result now will be that EVERY establishment that serves (gulp!) demon rum or (horrors!) CIGARETTES will have to hire a 24/7 GUARD to keep anyone from buying and using same. Anyone thinking, as I am, “entrapment”?

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