Homeless population adding challenges to new business in LSU’s Northgate area

BATON ROUGE – With the start of the fall semester just around the corner, business owners in the Northgate area near LSU are working hard to prepare for students’ arrival.

Joe Martin, co-owner of Soulshine Kitchen and Bar, says the funky, upbeat vibe of the new restaurant has been overshadowed by concern about the many people living in what appears to be a vacant building next door.

“It’s different people. It’s people coming in and out at all hours of the day. Sometimes you’ll just see activity at night. This place is clearly occupied,” Martin said.

Trash littered throughout the yard, blocked out windows and a person sleeping on the back patio of the building are a common sight. Martin says these things pose safety and sanitation concerns for his growing small business.

“I think it makes people uncomfortable. It can be unsafe and possibly unsanitary based on the trash pickup,” said Martin.

The East Baton Rouge assessor’s records show the building is owned by Chimes Street LLC An attorney who represents the owner did not answer WBRZ’s phone calls Tuesday.

“I’m not sure whose job it is exactly to make sure that’s not happening, but just as a small business, it’s definitely a concern of ours that I think something could be done about,” Martin said.

Recently, the EBR Metro Council debated and ordinance that would criminalize homeless encampments in public areas. It was deferred in July.

“I think we should always err on the side of compassion. It just needs to be well-thought-out and regulated,” Martin said.

When it comes to privately-owned buildings, the solution is unclear. Martin added, he just wants his staff, customers and all visitors along West Chimes Street to be safe.