New Orleans

Quirky New Orleans Laws You Should Know Before You Go

Go cup (Photo: Joshua Brasted)

As of April 30, 2015, smoking is banned in New Orleans bars. This represents a major redirection for a city that most visitors assume has few, if any laws, a place where you can always “do watcha wanna” (which is a hugely popular local brass band tune).

But know this: New Orleans actually has laws, both sensible — and not so much. Here are a few to keep in mind when visiting.

Last call. City bars don’t have a municipally mandated closing time, and as such many are open 24 hours. But not all. Most close nightly depending on demand — midnight on some nights, four in the morning on others. So “last calls” here tend to be “next to last calls” — which means you have to move on to find a 24-hour place.

Go cups. The good news: When you get “last called,” you can take your drink and put it in a plastic cup and walk down the street with it. That’s perfectly legal in the French Quarter as long as your drink isn’t in a glass or metal container. (Outside the Quarter it’s not technically legal … but rarely enforced.)

Un-drinking. If you have to relieve yourself, do it inside — probably more NOLA visitors get to see the inside of a jail cell because of this violation than any other. This falls under the “lewd behavior” section of the municipal code. Don’t do it, no matter how bad you have to go. Weirdly enough, there’s a separate law that bans urinating in public water supply, which hereabouts is the Mississippi River.

Fancy biking. New Orleans is as flat as an ironing board and has lots of side streets, making getting around by bicycle a great option. If you rent one for your stay, remember: No fancy bike riding. The law: “Every rider of a bicycle, tricycle or other vehicle propelled by hand or foot must keep at least one hand on the handlebars of his machine when riding it.”

Reptile or crustacean theft. If you get out to the rural parishes, be mindful of this state law: no stealing alligators or crawfish from farms. The fine? $500 for crawfish theft.

Cheering your team. Root, root, root for the home team, but within bounds. City law won’t allow you to “behave riotously” while doing so, nor can you engage in any disorderly acts (see above) while in a theater or other arena. Baseball cap wearers also note: it is illegal “to have… hats on while the curtain is raised.” Evidence suggests this law is not scrupulously enforced.

Bungee jumping. New Orleans city laws prohibit bungee jumping from a crane over city property. “No person shall use air-space above property owned or leased by the city, such that, should an accident occur, a person would fall on property owned or leased by the city.”

Mardi Gras time. Confine your bead throwing to street level or second-floor balconies. City ordinances prohibit the hurling of beads from the third story or above. Also, attention snake owners: do not bring a reptile within 200 yards of a Mardi Gras parade. You will be fined.

Cursing. City laws forbids “language to any person that makes reference to the person addressed as having sexual intercourse with himself.” This law appears to be gender specific, perhaps because the anatomical possibilities of addressing a woman in such terms is confounding.