Apr 112012
 

The "Gabrielle in Purgatory" dinner in February 2011 showcased some of the Sonnier's dishes at the controversial Uptowner location on Henry Clay Avenue. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Patrons at the most recent incarnation of The Gabrielle at 438 Henry Clay Avenue sign contracts for service renting a portion of the Uptowner events hall, but they can be as small as a single table, explains Gambit’s Ian McNulty. This arrangement satisfies the legal complexities around the building’s zoning and permits, proprietors Greg and Mary Sonnier tell McNulty — though given the years of disputes over the property, the city or the neighbors may yet seek a second opinion.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Print
  • June Rue

    I just want to make clear some FACTS about this issue

    * Mr. Sonnier bought this property knowing in no uncertain terms it was not zoned, nor did it have a permit for restaurant use. This property NEVER had a permit for restaurant use nor has ever been zoned for commercial use.

    * Mr. Sonnier was unanimously denied a zoning change by both the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

    * Mr. Sonnier is in violation of a court order to not operate as restaurant at this address.

    * Mr. Sonnier continues to ignore cease and desist orders as well as a violation notice from the Department of Safety and Permits.

    * Mr. Sonnier doesn’t possess a license to sell alcoholic beverages as a restaurant, nor does he have a license to operate as a restaurant at this address.

    This information is a mater of public record.

    • Glenn

      June,

      The location was clearly used for commercial purposes in the past. My question is, who cares? I simply can’t believe that having another great restaurant in the neighborhood would detract from the residents quality of life.

      • Mark

        It detracts from the quality of life when you return from the grocery and you can’t park within three blocks of your house.

        It has also caused surrounding property owners to illeagally pave front yards to create illeagle off street parking thus illimenating on street parking for the rest of the residents.

        • Lindsey123

          “Illeagal” is correctly spelled illegal, and “illimenating” is correctly spelled eliminating. You sound like a moron.

          I live in the neighborhood and have NEVER had an issue parking near if not in front of my house while they have been in operation and have eaten at Gabrielle’s a number of times at the old and new location, and the food is always SUPERB!

      • JUNE RUE

        The people who live in close proximity care and yes, it would very much “detract” from our quality of life. Another great restaurant woud be lovely. It needs to operate where zoning permits. There is a reason for zoning codes.

        • Robert

          I live close by and love having businesses in the area. People that complain don’t represent the majority. I have polled everyone in the block and have yet to find anyone against it. I love patiois and have to put up with parking blocking my driveway but looking at the big picture it is a small price to pay for the things that make new orleans special and keep people moving to uptown which keeps the value of our homes high and enhances our quality of life. Relax and enjoy the services that businesses bring us.

          • Kate

            True.

            Every corner is and has been a business for 100 years.

            That’s the charm of the neighborhood.

    • Faction

      “Mr. Sonnier bought this property knowing in no uncertain terms it was not zoned, nor did it have a permit for restaurant use.” –

      Ms. Rue, It generally hurts your credibility to start a list of FACTS with a bald-faced lie. The public record shows that the property DID have a permit for a restaurant. The problem is that a City permit may just turn out to be worthless if the right strings are being pulled against you! I respect your fears and concerns, but you cannot deny that Sonnier got royally screwed in this deal.

      • June rue

        You are wrong almighty Faction. Mr. Sonnier bought a building that had a conditional use for a reception hall. His purchase agreement specifically spelled out that there was NO restaurant permit attached to this property. This agreement was signed by Mr. Sonnier. This is public record. You need to do your homework.

        • Bobbybrown4

          Respectfully I must disagree with your facts. Some of them are just incorrect. Here is a link to photo of the occupational license that was issued to the business that the Sonniers purchased. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150670921433118&set=a.112256783117.95405.95694623117&type=3&theaterThe city has since illegally changed it to an occupational license for rentals and catering hall, something they can’t even define.
          That business also carried and still carries a license to sell alcohol. Because of it’s continuous history of businesses for well over 100 years at this location none of that even matters. They are well within their right to operate as they want because they are grandfathered & great grandfathered in to whatever zoning laws exist today. You say go somewhere else and open, they would have loved to do that after the way they’ve been wrangled through this corrupt system but all of their money is in The Uptowner. They tried but couldn’t sell the place because it is so unclear by the city what they would allow to open here that it couldn’t be sold, I wouldn’t buy it for that exact reason. And I don’t have the stomach for what this couple has gone through. They’ve done nothing wrong, They’re good, extremely hard working people who just want to earn an honest living to support their family, which they have been denied the right to do. They have done plenty to help their community over the years through hours of volunteer service and donations of food and time. People who have threatened them, vilified them and have been so vile to them should be ashamed of themselves. I realize you’re on the other side of this and entitled to your opinion, but you must present the true facts in their entirety.

          • Uptowner52

            Lets get the facts straight…..again. They did try to sell the place…. listing is below. The Sonniers advertised this property as a residence because it is. (MLS 869362)
            And again, this property is ZONED as RM4 residential. They simply have a conditional use as a reception hall which, last time I checked, is NOT the same as a restaurant.

            438 Henry Clay Ave is currently off the market. This 4 bedroom, 3&1/2 baths house located at 438 Henry Clay Ave, New Orleans, LA has approximately 7779 square feet. It is was last listed for $875,000 and had a price per sqft of $112. Properties near 438 Henry Clay Ave have a median listing price of $159,000 and a median price per sqft of $90. 438 Henry Clay Ave is part of the neighborhood located in 70118. This home is part of the Orleans Parish School District school district. The closest school is Milestone Sabis Academy Of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA. Please contact one of Movoto’s top-rated agents to see New Orleans market statistics and to help you get the best deal for 438 Henry Clay Ave, New Orleans, LA.

          • Uptowner52

            Lets get the facts straight…..again. They did try to sell the place…. listing is below. The Sonniers advertised this property as a residence because it is. (MLS 869362)
            And again, this property is ZONED as RM4 residential. They simply have a conditional use as a reception hall which, last time I checked, is NOT the same as a restaurant.

            438 Henry Clay Ave is currently off the market. This 4 bedroom, 3&1/2 baths house located at 438 Henry Clay Ave, New Orleans, LA has approximately 7779 square feet. It is was last listed for $875,000 and had a price per sqft of $112. Properties near 438 Henry Clay Ave have a median listing price of $159,000 and a median price per sqft of $90. 438 Henry Clay Ave is part of the neighborhood located in 70118. This home is part of the Orleans Parish School District school district. The closest school is Milestone Sabis Academy Of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA. Please contact one of Movoto’s top-rated agents to see New Orleans market statistics and to help you get the best deal for 438 Henry Clay Ave, New Orleans, LA.

      • Kate

        …and the real estate docs from the sale relay to Mr. Sonnier that the building was zoned as a restuarant.

        Public records do not lie.

    • Kate

      June,

      It’s a shame you presented untruths as facts, when in FACT, they are NOT.

      The truth is in the documents.

      You’ve tried to ruin this small business for over 5 years.

      Shouldn’t you also try to close Clancys, Patois, and rest as well?

      Signed,

      Not a Nimby.

      • June rue

        I have stated no untruths. Do your homework.

        And p.s: Mr. Sonnier has tried to ruin his own business. I would love to seem him open in a location zoned for commercial use. That new Walgreens location on the magazine street corridor would have been perfect!!! That would have helped the city.

  • Caroline

    Try living in the Garden District: Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, several marathons a year, any big televised game that attracts people to Magazine Street…..C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?

  • JUNE RUE

    You’re wrong, Robert. You haven’t polled me or the 120+ most impacted neighbors who have signed a petition against this property becoming a restaurant. Are we talking about the same neighborhood? If so, you live in la-la land……

    • Kate

      In your wildest dreams you have over 20 signatures.

      FOCLMSO !!!!!

  • Neighbor

    I lived within several blocks of the old “Uptowner” / Gabrielle’s and never had a problem with the venue or parking, etc.

    As far as the zoning issue: Really? What is the difference between a restaurant and a banquet hall?

    I am annoyed by the “noise” of people regarding parking. If you don’t have a driveway and you want one, I suggest moving to Metairie, Kenner or the Northshore. Those residential properties have adequate driveways.

    Keep New Orleans and its unique neighborhoods “business” friendly. Urban living consists of a variety of offerings in our neighborhoods – restaurants, retail, etc. That’s WHAT makes them so appealing to live in.

  • Brian

    Since no one complained about Walgreens moving into the neighborhood, why should anyone complain about this? Restaurants like Gabrielle’s is the reason New Orleans is special, not Walgreens.

    • June rue

      The Walgreens location is commercially zoned and the developer is operating within the zoning codes along a commercial corridor, like it or not. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Sonnier did not make the decision to do the same. He would have been operational years ago. The neighborhood does not want nor does it need a spot zone. You need a better understanding of the zoning code. There are plenty of locations in this city to operate a business legally, Numerous restaurants have opened in areas zoned for commercial use in the past 5 years The old Gabrielle location was one of the first to come back, in fact. Mr. Sonnier made a bad business decision and the neighborhood shouldn’t have to pay for it.

      • Brian

        June, technically if there was a strict reading of the zoning, a drugstore, in particular, a business with a drive-through, is not allowed in this zoning. If I remember correctly, this portion of Magazine is zoned B-1, which does not explicitly say drugstores. If you want an explicit listing where zoning allows for drugstores, that would be C-1. However, neither ARNA nor our councilwomen had the courage to stand up to the developers, and as with your Gabrielle issue, since its not in my backyard, the neighbors could careless too.

        • JUNE RUE

          Zoning here is NOT B1, but B2, which allows any building up to 25,000 sq. ft, and 55′ high. This zoning is crazy and should be addressed in the new CZO. This is the kind of thing ARNA should be working on, not Easter egg hunts and park benches.

      • Michaelfrom0z

        The Sonniers bought a business. A business that was zoned as a business before you were born. Before your parents were born. “Neighborhood Associations” have become well-healed gangs in this town with extremely narrow self-serving interests. This case is a classic example.

  • Joseph

    June-
    People like you are scary. You state a list of facts that are just blatant falsehoods. Mr. Sonnier purchased the property and the “business with its assets”. Therefore, he acquire:1) the liquor license and 2) an occupational license for a full table service restaurant.
    Mr. Sonnier got screwed by people like you [Neighbors] who claimed it was a reception hall so after his aquisition,neighbors like you block him from operating as a full table service restaurant.
    Typical New Orleans-after the fact a license does not mean what it says. The real issue is who are the actual owners of other nearby restaurants who don’t want Gabrille to operate in close proximity.

  • KAB

    I am so excited and am calling to make a reservation!

  • The Uptowner

    Occupational License purchased with The Uptowner, Inc. and 438 Henry Clay Ave. It was later confiscated by the city and changed to “reception hall/ leasing”; with NO due process. Very Scary!!!

  • Gabrielle at The Uptowner

    Image of the Occupational license to operate as a “full service restaurant (with Table service)” carried by The Uptowner, Inc, 438 Henry Clay Ave., until it was confiscated by The City of NO (with NO due process) and replaced with a license to operate as a “reception hall/ leasing”. Pretty scary stuff!!

  • Tripletail33

    “Non- conforming use means it does not conform with the current zoning laws in effect now.
    If the use was to close down for a period of six months or more. They would lose their non-conforming use and it would become residential use……. Mrs. Brown ran the Uptowner for 40 years. She was a very good neighbor. Had few events, limited the patrons. Had a policeman on the corner. She had so few event and so few patrons we were not affected by the parking. The only way you would know there was an event was the policeman on the corner So hopefully I have given you a clear and concise definition of a non-conforming use.”– Peggy Sapir

    • Bobbiebrown4

      Peggy, Thanks for clarifying that Gabrielle is well within their right to open their restaurant in this location due to the 100 plus years of non-conforming use zoning this property has. Just as you said, like the events held by the previous owners of The Uptowner, I have attended several events from large private parties to wine dinners to intimate parties for small groups to an after funeral celebration. I always think upon arrival of how you would never know a thing was going on in the place because it is so quiet and private. The only unsavory occurrences have been the stalker who was taking pictures through the windows of the grieving family during the memorial celebration we attended and the nut-job who was screaming at the wheel-bound patron leaving Gabrielle a few weeks ago. Taking his picture and yelling at him that he was at an illegal restaurant. How crazy is that?