Aug 142013

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A local restaurateur’s plan to build an “old-fashioned” seafood restaurant with rooftop seating on Bernadotte Street was met with opposition Monday night.

Plans courtesy of CIS Architects

William Wright brought blueprints of his oyster bar vision on 501 South Bernadotte Street to the monthly Mid City Neighborhood Organization meeting. During a presentation, he said the proposed family restaurant would be charming, with a “100-year-old country store” façade and a ten-foot porch.

Wright added that he wanted to put rooftop seating in his new restaurant because Chicago’s Wrigley Field inspired him.

“I thought it would be neat to have seating on the roof to watch games at St. Patrick’s Park,” Wright added, referring to a local Mid-City park and playground on the corner of St. Patrick and Baudin streets.

At the meeting, Wright said that the development would seat 40 or 50 patrons. Although some residents expressed concern that the blueprints looked big, he said that it would be as quaint as Café Degas, a local French restaurant located on Esplanade Avenue.

“Having an old New Orleans-style seafood restaurant seems like a good thing to me,” Wright said.

But neighbors attending the meeting seemed less enchanted with the idea.

Community members expressed concern about lack of space in the area, the noise levels that the restaurant would bring and a potential parking shortage for neighbors.

“It’s a tiny little lot in a neighborhood that’s a dead end,” said Doris Lumpkin, a real estate agent who lives in the area.

According to a City of New Orleans Board of Zoning Adjustments agenda, Green Wing Properties of New Orleans applied for a permit at that address for “the construction of a restaurant with excessive floor area ratio and insufficient off-street parking.”

Wright said that he was hoping to be able to provide ten parking spaces for the restaurant. The city requires 23 off-street spaces, according to the agenda, so Wright had to apply for a waiver for the rest.

At the meeting, Lumpkin added that she was worried about what kind of noise the outdoor seating would bring.

“It’s going to be loud and rowdy,” Lumpkin said.

Amy Busby, another local who works in public health, reiterated that she was concerned about that and street crowding.

But Wright said he didn’t think that, if approved, the restaurant would cause any problems.

“I’m sorry, I’m opening a restaurant for families,” Wright countered. “It’s not a bar.”

Bonnie Garrigan, vice president of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, said that the organization hadn’t yet formed an opinion about how the restaurant would potentially affect the neighborhood.

“The board hasn’t taken a position on this yet, but we will,” Garrigan said.

  40 Responses to “Restaurateur proposes seafood restaurant with rooftop seating on Bernadotte Street”

  1. I am in the neighborhood and I would support this. Doesn’t Ms. Lumpkin work at the bar on the corner? That is the last person I would consider to have concerns about noise and rowdiness. I don’t see any noise and rowdiness at Mandina’s or Liuzza’s…

  2. Oh, come on. Let him build and reduce the amount of parking needed. Plenty of people can walk, bike or take public trans. This is a city – and we need businesses to provide tax revenues.

  3. Stop being CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). That is a dead end street in an area that needs all the revival it can get. It can’t bring any more noise than the ball games and movies at St. Patrick Playground. The owner talks about watching the ball games from the rooftop restaurant. It would also be great to watch the movies. Sort of like the old drive-in movie theaters.

  4. The article in the Mid-City Messenger didn’t give you any details so here it is. First, I am not opposed to a restaurant being there. I am opposed to the waivers the proposed restaurant owners have applied for. 1. They have applied for a waiver on parking. The city requires that the owners provide 23 parking spaces. They have applied for a waiver of all providing NO PARKING. 2. They have applied for a variance on the limit of the size. The maximum floor ratio currently is 1820sq ft. They have applied to nearly DOUBLE that size to 3640 square feet. 3. They have applied for a waiver on loading space. City requires one, they have applied for zero. Those are the three waivers that have been applied for so far. Additionally it appears that they will have to apply for a waiver for a dumpster space, currently zero provided, and they would have to apply for a yard setback variance, they intend to put the front of the building directly on the street, providing ZERO setback. The proposed size of the building currently takes up EVERY INCH of that corner lot in addition to building a second floor with an additional open air roof-top dining area. This article quotes Billy Wright saying that it will be the size of Café Degas. Not true at all. I will post the restaurant plans. It also states that he will provide 10 parking spaces. This is not true. He has applied for zero. The city council met about this Monday. But has been postponed the vote until the MCNO gives their vote. The parking he is now saying he will try to provide will come from an attempted long term lease of the “paper street” directly next to the park. Currently the park goers use that space to park. This would be taken away to provide 10 exclusive parking spots. My argument is that it’s a blank slate. There is no current building there. Since it’s a blank slate, he should be able to create a restaurant that respects the size of that lot and the neighborhood needs. His thoughts on this from the MCNO meeting Monday night were, and I quote “If I followed all the rules that the Health Department and the city demand, I would be left with nothing but a hotdog stand.” To which I replied, “Well, maybe it needs to be a hotdog stand” If they intended on making it like Café Degas, I would welcome it with open arms…OYSTERS? HECK YES! But not from someplace the size of Don’s Seafood. And no, I do not work at the bar on the corner.

    • I’m glad that you responded to this. But just to clarify a few points:
      1. He didn’t say it would be the same size as Cafe Degas, but would have the same restaurant feeling. That’s why I used the word “quaint,” rather than “size.” In fact, that’s why I mentioned the number of seats and the fact that the blueprints looked larger than how he was describing it at the meeting.
      2. I didn’t say he has 10 parking spaces secured. I said he was hoping to be able to provide that. Which is what he said in the interview — from, as you mentioned, a lease from across the street. I’d be curious to hear what the outcome of that proposal is.

  5. Just in case people don’t want to read all the details… I do not work at MCYC haven’t for over three years now.

  6. Love this area and would love to sit roof top on a Sunday and have some good ole’ seafood! It’s not Jaeger’s on the Lake…but it’ll do!

  7. of course it was met with opposition. why wouldn’t it be. the people of new Orleans LOVE to fight against progress. they love almost as much as the saints and crawfish season. fighting against progress is a sport in this city. they would rather have old condemned torn up buildings that smell of urine than a nice building with a a business and a tax base. just ask the developers fighting with the vieux carre commission Nazi’s to get their businesses off the ground.

  8. Why is it that people supporting this (who appear to be from outside the neighborhood and will likely drive here and take up parking in front of our homes) think a quite reasonable expectation, that a new use & new construction should provide some parking for customers or be appropriately scaled for a lot = neighbors oppose restaurant? Isn’t having some parking just good business sense? Has anyone actually said they are opposed to a restaurant or development of this vacant lot?

    • That is a good point. it doesnt appear that anyone is against a restaurant. in fact, im sure this would be welcomed as long as it is done responsibly. after reading over the proposal it is obvious that much more dialogue is needed in order to clarify the needs of both the business owner and residents. Making sure these valid concerns are addressed is the only way us mid city residents can ensure and promote responsible property ownership in our neighborhood. fighting progress? i think that couldn’t be farthest from the truth. Having this sort of dialogue is essential for actual progress.

  9. I like the idea. I drove by there Monday night after the meeting. Looks like a spot that could use improvement. Not many immediate neighbors. Let’s work with the guy.

  10. Hello, My name is William Wright, the developer of Mid City Seafood Restaurant. I just want to say a few words about the project and some of the people commenting against it. Well, first and foremost this is a old time West End style family style seafood restaurant alla Bart’s complete with a WOP salad and 8 oz cokes and 7UPS. where you can take your kids and eat on the roof and watch the ball games. Anyone remember eating boiled crabs on the unairconditioned screen porch of Brunning’s on the Lakefront? That’s where my dad taught me how to eat crabs. IT IS NOT A BAR KAREN!!!!!!! I have talked to some of the people Miss Karen Ocker has been talking to and convincing them that this has to be a bar because the kitchen is to small (all experts in the workings of the restaurant business, right) and there is 12 seats at the bar so it must be a bar ( no one in New Orleans eats at the bar, right) and there mere fact that I will have Poker machines in the restaurant is sure fire proof that it’s a bar, right. ( no restaurants in New Orleans have poker machines to off set there expenses right) Well here’s what I say, first of all there are 8 seats at the bar and if any of these people would have ever worked at a restaurant they would know what can and can’t put out in a small kitchen with a menu of limited and redundant items involving soups plates and sandwiches and boiled seafood. At Old N’Awins Cookery we put out sometimes 500 and 600 covers in a kitchen at least as small. At this point I won’t bore you with the names of the famous New Orleans restaurants that have poker machines to off set their expenses.And secondly let me address some of the people mounting this very aggressive campaign against the restaurant. First lets talk about Doris. This lady was a bartender at Mid City Yacht Club for many years and her husband is at this time still a bartender there as we speak. Mind you Mid City Yacht Club is building a brand new restaurant next door to the bar. And have no parking places and stays open almost all nite and has out door seating . People do get loud at bars I think. And on top of that Doris lives closer to the Mid City bar than the restaurant. So for her to come out and start saying that my customers will be loud and rowdy and all else that she clams ( remember this is a family restaurant) in my opinion and only with my opinion I think this is an obvious plant by Mid City Yacht Club management who again is building a new restaurant without parking who is afraid and greedy and wants no competition. I mean they have a bar taking up many parking places and build a whole new restaurant to take up more parking places and Miss Doris says nothing.Sounds a bit suspicious to me. And as for Miss Karen Ocker, she has been again in my opinion an habitual neighborhood complainer who has put up major resistance to almost all new businesses in the neighborhood. I mean this person knows all the codes on the code book and will throw them out to any and all that she sees is not perfect. Also she is so worried about parking and people commenting on this in favor of this not from that neighborhood. Well Miss Ocker lives on the other side of Banks a couple doors down on Palmyer not in the neighborhood of the restaurant and is a few doors from me where she would be unaffected. I can tell you we have never never never had ONE overflow car from the ballpark on the other side of Banks park near us. All we want to do is establish an nice new business and building on that spot that is full of trash at this time pay taxes provide jobs and support the local wholesalers and fisherman and have fun running and old fashioned West End style seafood restaurant and get along with our neighbors without what I feel is all all the lies and innuendos being tossed about. I’m sure in the end if lucky enough to put this together I feel all the neighbors will become customers able to walk down to their neighborhood restaurant as I was able to do as a kid growing up in New Orleans..

  11. I love across the park from the tiny spot where this guy wants to put a restaurant . The fact that the owner never bothered to reach out to the neighbors before proposing a building that would need approval tells me all I need to know about the guy.
    If it was an established restauranteur, who could point to other successful ventures, I would likely support it. But that is not the case here. And when the business starts to fail, they will cut back on the kitchen and focus on the bar.
    When it does eventually fail, what is the next business to operate in the building?
    Also,Im from Chicago originally and the scene on a wrigleyville rooftop deck is about as Bourbon street

    • My name is William Wright and I live at 227 S. Bernadotte St . I was the guy that for 11 years I had a crawfish boil on the second of Jazz Fest and gave away 2000 lbs of bugs. I always had 3 bands and a beer truck, so I am all about the neighborhood . I have been living there and next to the cemetery since 1994. I was the one who spent $30,000.00 of the company to rebuild the ball park after Katrina. I owned and rebuilt Buds Broiler and built with my own two hands the little restaurant in the Quarter on Pirates Alley which is still there. I am 7 generations in New Orleans and have a Dinning Room Captain at some of the countries best restaurants.I am not one of these new New Orleanians who came here after the storm or because they think it’s cool. I LIVE here!!!! I didn’t feel I was doing anything but a good thing that’s why I didn’t come kiss any rings. I grow up in New orleans with corner restaurants and corner bars and no one thought it was a bad thing. It’s only since the coming of the so called Neighborhood Assc. that everyone has a say in what you do with your land and your money. Bye Bye America!!!! Enough for ya!!.

  12. I live 4 doors down from that vacant lot (501), and I’m also renovating the ‘Katrina’ building directly across the street from it. I know all my neighbors. I’ve spoken at length with one of the principals. I’m as qualified as anyone to offer an opinion on the issue, and I do not support the current proposal.

    However, I don’t know of anyone in the area who categorically opposes development of 501. This evening, one of the principals suggested a meeting with some other neighbors soon, so hopefully we will hear some ideas that can be supported instead of opposed.

    The two issues we (the immediate neighbors) have are the exact same reasons that variances are needed- the scale of the proposed building, and the parking problem.

    If I understand my neighbors correctly, every single person who can see 501 from their front yard opposes construction of a two-story building on that property. The ‘floor area ratio’ variance is needed to build a two-story building where one basically doesn’t belong. Thus, the neighbors oppose that variance. ‘Cute’ and ‘quaint’ can’t compensate for ‘too big’.

    Bernadotte & Baudin are overrun with kickball and softball parking several days & nights each week. Vehicles park along the streets AND in the public land that surrounds 501, as well as in 501 itself. The proposed parking ‘solution’ (to lease the already-in-use public property and make it into private restaurant parking) is utterly indifferent to the park users and the neighbors (like me). Thus, the neighbors oppose the parking waiver as well.

    Again, I haven’t spoken with anyone who wants 501 to be a vacant lot for all eternity. There is however, OVERWHELMING opposition to the current proposal.

    And for the posters who are only offering generic opinions about ‘the area’ and/or bashing and name-calling the opponents of this proposal: you look like shills for the principals, and lousy ones at that. Let’s try to keep this discussion meaningful and on-topic.

  13. Just wondering when my previous reply is going to be posted? Also I’ just wanted to say, another part of the conspiracy mounted by the Mid City bar and at least one of it’s owners against the restaurant is Amy Busby one of the attendee’s at the MCNO meeting along with Miss Doris. Miss Busby lives down the street from the Mid City bar across the street from the ball park and who’s Land Lord is MJ the owner of the Mid City Yacht Club bar and soon to be restaurant without any parking and outdoor seating. Hardly an independent out pouring of indignation and I think any right thinking person would agree on that. This really seems to have turned out to be a pretty much amature and feeble attempt to stop any and all competition to and by the owners of the Mid City Yacht Club Bar and new restaurant without any parking!!!

    • This is all ridiculous. Also, WOP is an extremely derogatory term. Just because its still on some old new orleans menus doesnt mean it should continue to be used. where is the moderator?

      • Wow. Get over yourself & your PC garbage. Not everyone lives in your world of contrived offenses. I’m more offended by your assault on the 1st amendment rights of others. Speak how you want & let others do the same. If you don’t like it, ignore them or don’t associate w them. WOP salad is an accepted vernacular here & it’s actually celebrated. I’m from Sicilian stock & couldn’t care less.

    • Mr. Wright,

      My husband and I OWN our home and have valid concerns as home owners. To re-iterate, we have not previously opposed your restaurant, just the size of it and the waivers requested. Any respectful business owner would seek the support of the neighbors. As Mr. Staunton stated, the fact that you never reached out to us as neighbors speaks volumes of your character and intentions.

      • AS to the size of the restaurant. Have you seen the actual size of the lot? The building is no taller than Mr. Davis’s building that he is working on as we speak!

  14. Billy, instead of making silly accusations of conspiracy, perhaps you should address the homeowners’ concerns.

  15. Doris, Pls be truthful. You may not work for the Mid City Yacht Club currently but you DO currently work for the person who owns the MCYC…as an agent at her firm. True or False????

    • Yes. I work for Urban Vision as a Realtor.

    • I am also a homeowner and resident on the 4700 block of Baudin. I have valid concerns about the waiver arhat have been applied for. I am not opposing the restaurant.

    • what does that have to do with anything. people are thinking way to much into this. the fact is that Ms Lumpkin is a mid city homeowner and has just as much of a right to voice these issues as anyone else. and lets not forget she isnt the only one challenging this proposal. there is opposition because of variances requested and not because of a childish desire to conspire against new businesses in the area. And for Mr Wright to call out these people instead of trying to create a friendly dialogue is both unprofessional and unnecessary. what happened to meeting with community members to work out issues maturely? shouldnt business owners want to hear the concerns of their neighbors before moving forward?

    • and its also important to note that Urban Vision has consistently remained invested in the revitalization of Mid City. the work that they have done to improve this area needs to be taken into consideration. there is nothing wrong with promoting positive and responsible development in our area. their commitment to mid city is evident all around our neighborhood. this doesnt sound like an organization that would try to bash progress for no reason. keep up the good work!

  16. So basically he’s not providing any parking at all for a restaurant that he himself compares to one that does 500/600 covers a night in an area that already has parking problems, and his argument is because yacht club doesnt have parking either? And some how leasing 10 existing parking spots gets him in the clear?

    Buy some adjacent property, looks like blight across the street, build a lot.
    Add parking underneath the structure, but you’ve got to provide NEW parking options.

    • The amount of covers at 500 to 600 goes to the fact that it doesn’t matter about the size of the kitchen. Cliff Davis has told me it has to be a bar because the kitchen is so small. That is all I was saying.

  17. Mr. Wright.
    I am a huge supporter of new development, particularly on your parcel of land. The mention of an oyster bar had me excited from the start. It is an excellent idea and in no way would it clash with other businesses in the area. I could see myself spending many Friday happy hours there. Then I saw your plans and waiver requests. I regret to say that I cannot support your plan in its current form.
    Noise is a non-issue with a bar being at the opposite end of the block and a ballpark across the street. The neighborhood is doing fine with both. Parking isn’t a major concern either (just ask someone living off Magazine St.). What bothers me is that you’re looking for the city to give you exclusive access to public land for parking. That is unacceptable. Dumpster placement is also a concern.
    Many businesses have done much more with less. Dat Dog on Freret was doing very well in that ‘closet’ it was working until it acquired a neighboring property to expand its business. Just over on Carrollton, Rue 127 has become a popular fine dining destination in a similarly tiny space. These people have made due within the bounds of current city ordinances. If you are unable to comply as such and are unwilling to purchase nearby property to achieve your vision, I respectfully suggest you sell the property to someone who is.
    There is no conspiracy here and I find the mention of it offensive at worst and puerile at best. Sour grapes, sir. It’s rather unreasonable to assume that an oyster bar or seafood restaurant would be seen as a threat to a lounge. On Banks St., Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. isn’t taking business away from Banks St. Bar or the adjacent Mid City Pizza. Apples and oranges…
    Business for the neighborhood is always welcome, but when the developer is clearly biting off more than he/she can chew, serious opposition should be expected as is the case here.

  18. Mid City Yacht Club ownership would like to respond to the letter written by William Wright regarding the proposal of the restaurant on Baudin St. and S. Bernodotte.
    First, the Mid City Yacht Club is not opening an new restaurant next door to the bar. We are renovating an existing kitchen located upstairs in our existing bar building. We have served food since we opened, this will simply allow us to serve better food.
    In addition, we purchased the neighboring buildings. These two buildings were blighted and non-historic as well as non-conforming because they were Two Main Uses on One Lot of Record and were historically part of our bar parcel. We removed the house that was failing and renovated the other structure and returned the parcel to its historic footprint with the approval of both our neighbors and City Council. We have the support of our neighbors because we communicate with them and continually address any concerns.
    As for the development of 501 S. Bernodotte, the Mid City Yacht Club supports any business that can fit within the current zoning regulations. The lot is zoned Light Industrial which is not a very restrictive designation. The lot, however, is very small and therefore the development should be small also. Mr. Wright has mentioned that if he followed the regulations then all he would be left with is a hot dog stand. A hot dog stand is the appropriate size development for this lot. There are many small scale food service businesses that would not only fit on this lot, but not require any waivers. Mr. Wright’s plan only needs waivers because it is over-sized for this lot. This is not a renovation of an existing building, it is a new construction project.
    The Mid City Yacht Club also supports the concept of the Mid City Seafood Restaurant. Since Mr. Wright does not own the lot at 501 S. Bernodotte he should simply find a location that supports the size operation he desires. There are many such locations in the very near vicinity.

    The owners of The Mid City Yacht Club

    • Wait, you mean the alternative is build a “Dat Dog?” location? Sign me up then!

    • This is a small restaurant. 40 to 50 seats up and down. Seating is on the roof and the cover was an after thought. This is not a two story building. The plans look big because it’s on paper put look at the lot size and you will see. And why not be able to use what we have and get wavers like anyone else. The place is no bigger than Cliff Davis’s place across the street.

  19. Dear Mid City Yacht Club, Do you realize how ridiculous it is to tell me to put as Miss Doris said , a Hot Dog Stand on my lot! And to call what y’all did, a renovation of a residential kitchen and residential home into just a remodel and not a new restaurant especially with the menu you put up on Face Book is the same as calling what happened in Egypt just a change of governments and not a coup!! And serving Hot Pockets warmed up in a toaster oven is not food service sir.

    • i wouldn’t go to your bar/restaurant after reading how you’ve responded to your neighbors on here.

      • He’s certainly not winning any friends in the neighborhood, that’s for sure. And as an immediate neighbor to his endeavor, given his lack of respect for our concerns, I certainly don’t and won’t support his plan as stated.

        Mr. Wright, when the owners of the MCYC announced their interest in expansion, they came to each of us and asked our opinions on the matter, and addressed our concerns (traffic, noise) Especially considering the proximity of their new patio to my home, this was very important.

        They acted as *good neighbors* and in turn, many of us directly affected by their expansion wrote letters of support to the City Council, or appeared in person.

        So far, I have seen no such goodwill towards any concerns levied by the people who will have to deal with your restaurant, merely personal attacks against those who brought those concerns to light.

        I will say that if your restaurant was located in a more appropriate location for its size, such as at the end of Banks Street where there is parking, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

        Banks Street already enjoys a number of restaurants, and I would readily welcome a seafood/family style restaurant as you have described.

    • Mr. Wright, if this thread of temper tantrums is any indication of what kind of man you are, then it is all anyone will need to demonstrate just what a poor neighbor you would be. I can say now with near certainty that you are thoroughly unwelcome. And furthermore, you have NO room to talk about poor quality of food given the fact that your nearby Bud’s Broiler is serving nothing but nostalgia in the form of frozen processed “beef” patties from Sam’s.

  20. I don’t live on the immediate block, but 4 streets away. I say build it. Provide 10 parking spots and move on.

    If you have an issue parking your car 1-2 blocks away from your house, then you probably shouldn’t have bought a house without off street parking. This isn’t the French Quarter. Street parking is plentiful and easy to find. It might not be immediately in front of your residence, but it’s never far away.

    There comes a point when we have to stop catering to cars and start catering to people.

    • Actually, we did buy a house with off-street parking.

      However, we’ve spent the last two years dealing with inconsiderate (read: Bad) neighbors occupying a house owned by an absentee landlord that constantly blocked access to our off-street parking. Which makes us wary of “breaking in” another neighbor, especially one with Mr. Wright’s attitude.

      The bartenders at the MCYC know if we come looking for them (and don’t ask for a beer) it means someone’s blocked our driveway and about to get towed if we don’t recognize the car and they deal with it accordingly.

      We *rarely* have that problem now.

      If you think that “parking is plentiful and easy to find” during either a Sports night at the MCYC (Saints, Ohio State, LSU) or during a Kickball/Softball game, then you obviously don’t know anything about the immediate and surrounding blocks and thus aren’t qualified to comment on parking issues.

      Claiming the end of South Bernadotte for “exclusive” parking for Mr. Wright’s seafood shack would eliminate several City street parking spots used by kickballers/softballers which would place an even greater strain on our parking situation.

      Further, as I’ve stated here and elsewhere, I’m not opposed to building on that site, especially if it were a project appropriate to the immediate neighborhood in both scope and scale.

      A “hot dog stand” would actually be nice, considering how frequently I eat at Dat Dog. But that would mean a “Quality” over “Quantity” issue of food, which apparently isn’t in Mr. Wright’s interest in.

      A Plum Street Snowball-style stand would go *very* well in that small corner as well, and I dare anyone to say wouldn’t be profitable given the lines around the block at Plum Street or Pandora’s in Mid City.

  21. Update- Mr. Wright did not bother to show up to the BZA meeting this morning, and his three variance requests were all denied. He will either have to come up with a plan that requires no variances (as the neighbors have suggested) or abandon the project entirely.

    After personally dealing with Mr. Wright over the last several weeks, I’ve come to hope for the latter. No effort was made to accommodate any of our concerns- instead, Mr. Wright simply went door-to-door insisting that my neighbors accept his plan as it is. It reached this level of absurdity- Mr. Wright unrolled his plans for me in the middle of the street (again) and insisted that he is NOT building a two-story building. WHILE HE IS POINTING TO HIS PLANS FOR A TWO-STORY BUILDING. I’m glad this is over with.

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