An old church chicken building on Louisiana Avenue has been turned into a battleground for a neighborhood association and a budding entrepreneur is renovating it into a full-service liquor store.
The Dalchays Neighborhood Assembly has filed an appeal with the Zoning Amendments Board to halt building work on two blocks of St. Charles Street. It claims that the planned Daiquiri World will be a bar disguised as a restaurant and that the design resembles a fast food operation.
BZA employees recommended that the appeal be dismissed, stating that the plans show an ordinary restaurant. But the BZA board said those plans were incomplete and had not been sealed by a licensed architect. They voted August 1 to postpone the appeal to next month’s meeting.
Daiquiri World is a project of Morgan Walker of New Orleans, a black entrepreneur and activist who founded Bike n Vote. Walker testified before the board of directors, “Today, my dream and vision of opening a restaurant in the neighborhood where I grew up is being jeopardized.”.
She said she wants to bring the vacant Louisiana and Barron’s building, the former home of Sal’s Seafood and more recently a MetroPCS store, back into commerce. The city issued a building permit for the project on May 12.
Donna Robertson, president of DNA, which filed the appeal, said: “The position of Safety and Permits is that they have met all the requirements, and while they may have, the practical word is ‘may. .”
She also noted that Walker failed to state, in response to a question about safety enforcement and permits, that the restaurant was located within 300 feet of Cohen College Prep High School. “As the business plans to sell alcohol, DNA finds it very concerning that Safety and Permits do not believe this information was important to the application,Robertson said.
Robertson then went on to describe situations in which a company might circumvent zoning ordinances by surreptitiously applying to open a restaurant and then turning the establishment into a bar. She said the project represented a change of use and a fundamental improvement, requiring additional permits that were not issued by the city.
In rebutting it, restaurateur Walker rallied to defend her business plan. She reiterated that she would open a restaurant with a permanent host stand, table service, and a full menu. She also described the entire kitchen architecture that she is currently trying to finish.
She added that the floor plan will feature a crescent-shaped grill where customers watch the chefs prepare food along the same lines as Camellia Grill.
“It is built on the corner of Louisiana Street and not within the neighborhood, a commercial street with adjacent beauty salons, liquor stores, other restaurants, and funeral homes,Walker said. “This building has been destroyed for years with rubbish and graffiti everywhere. It really is just a sore thumb, and my investment will only enhance the property values of those around it.“
Not next to me?
At the hearing, the neighborhood association presented a myriad of grievances, including those not covered by city zoning ordinances.
Robertson and Helen Barnett, speaking for the Delachaise Neighborhood Association, spoke of many reasons why a restaurant was not allowed to open in the commercial lane.
These issues included parking, increased crime, distraction from nearby high school students, and problems with Daiquiri Place in the Lower Garden and Jazz Daiquiri Lounge in South Claiborneand the fact that the company will be named after an alcoholic beverage.
“You have the opportunity and ability to ensure that students of Cohen High School do not run into customers of Daiquiri World and inexpensive high-octane alcohol on a daily basis,Barnett told the council.
Walker defended the name during the hearing, even though BZA does not have jurisdiction over the brand names. “Our business name uses a New Orleans staple, “daiquiri”, not to promote a pub but for marketing purposes to attract tourists from Saint Charles to enter the restaurant,She said. “We believe the “daiquiri” will draw people in and the food will keep them coming back.“
The neighborhood says it
Neighbors’ response appears to be mixed, even among members of neighborhood associations.
BZA has received more than 90 emails supporting the appeal and opposing the proposed actions. One of those emails came from Jay H. Banks, who lives near the Daiquiri World location. Board members were asked to consider whether they wanted to establish near their homes.
“I ask you please do not agree to destroy our neighborhood,Books “Banks. “Daiquiri stores have shown a verifiable history of attracting large crowds.“Business owners can’t always control those crowds,” he said.
Expressing a concern he regularly expressed while representing District B on the City Council, Banks wrote:Even if the owners are honest in their obligation to try, the issues of land use are not related to the owner but are related to the property. If this is approved and they decide to sell, the next owner may not be obligated not to destroy our quality of life.“
In an interview after the August 1 hearing, Walker said she had collected more than 100 signatures in support of her restaurant from neighbors near the proposed location.
on July 23The Delachaise Neighborhood has requested Facebook support for the restaurant’s shutdown order.
“The Delachaise Neighborhood Association (DNA) is appealing the Department of Safety and Licensing’s approval of a “Standard Restaurant” renewal permit at 1738 Louisiana Avenue,” the association’s Facebook page reads.
Three comments were recorded, all in support of the business.
“I’d rather see the investment in the community than look at the dilapidated former PCS metro building,” wrote Even Troxell. “This spot is going to have great boiled seafood, popboys, and drinks. Why dissent? The city needs tax revenue, not empty storefronts.”
Another member of the DNA Facebook page posted: “I’m with all that, stop this nimbya.”
On Nextdoor, there was a vigorous conversation about the restaurant concept, with some posts citing racism as a suspected element in play.
Delachaise neighborhood association meeting
Prior to the hearing, Walker and her contractor, Gerald Baptiste, were invited to a meeting of the Delachaise Neighborhood Association in Martin’s Wine Cellar to answer any questions from the members.
Many of the neighbors who expressed dissenting opinions seemed to care more about the name of the institution, while Robertson had other issues.
“[The issue] “Who is it going to attract? How will it affect the neighborhood?” said Robertson.
Other neighbors expressed concern about the children being with their parents when they ordered food in the restaurant. a The presence of a bar inside a restaurant in New Orleans has also been cited as a concern.
Robertson announced at the end of the meeting that, regardless of the assertions, she would file an appeal to close the project.
At the meeting, Walker described the restaurant’s bar area as a place where patrons could watch the chefs cook. She said the company would comply with standard restaurant requirements, including that alcohol sales account for less than half of average monthly revenue.
Walker said the menu will feature traditional New Orleans food and appetizers. She emphasized that the intended trade name did not negate the restaurant’s condition.
She felt that she was put on the spot and given only two hours’ notice to attend the meeting and defend her plan of action in the large neighbor’s room at Martin’s Wine Cellar.
Current drafts of the interior show a mid-century modern aesthetic with dining tables set. Portions of the interior floor plan are still in flux as Walker, her wife, and business partner, attorney Yasha Clark, navigate design ideas.
After the BZA meeting on August 1, Walker said It is pleased with the ruling and continues to mobilize support.
The next BZA meets on September 12 at 10 a.m. in City Council rooms.