Nov 092012
 

TJ Quills has transformed into “Annex,” after a visit from a cable TV reality show. (photo by Marta Jewson for UptownMessenger.com)

TJ Quills has a new owner, a new look, a new name — essentially, a complete overhaul of the Maple Streeet bar, thanks to Bar Rescue, a reality show on SPIKE TV.

Following underage drinking allegations last year, TJ Quills’ previous owner signed a set of strict operating agreements then sold the property to Darian Blanchard in April. Blanchard said he didn’t know about the issues when he bought it, but after an appearance before the city alcohol board, he said he has been working with the neighborhood in good faith to turn the bar around.

As part of that effort, Blanchard put in an application for the Bar Rescue show and was one of a handful of bars selected for renovation. Blanchard was notified a few days before film crews arrived on Oct. 30, and the bar closed for a few days before its grand re-opening as Annex on Nov. 6.

Blanchard said the line to get in stretched down the block that night.

Lyle Luquette, one of Blanchard’s bartenders, said Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer told them the bar initially looked like “grandma’s basement”.

With the new name Annex, Blanchard’s bar was renovated by the reality show in less than a week. Freshly painted walls are graced with new artwork and spot lighting. New high top tables have touch screens built-in so customers can order food from their seat. The bar has a new ventilation system designed to remove cigarette smoke by cleaning the air 13 times per hour.

“The two things that Jon Taffer said were, we were all good bar tenders and quick, and that the bar wasn’t dirty, but that everything else needed to be improved,” Luquette said.

A row of new vodka chillers at Annex. (photo by Marta Jewson for UptownMessenger.com)

Luquette said bartenders were trained in how to make new drinks with fresh ingredients. Chef Brian Duffy came in and created a new menu. Complete with a TurboChef oven, the staff can cook anything in about two minutes said Luquette, adding there was about $100,000 worth of work total was done.

“We’re trying our best to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood,” said Blanchard.

He said he hopes to attract more of a neighborhood crowd, and doesn’t want to be known solely as a college scene.

“There are still a few things to improve, like the parking lot, so we hope to make money and keep investing in the property,” said Blanchard.

Keith Hardie of Maple Area Residents, Inc. — which often opposes any new alcohol licenses on Maple — was circumspect when asked for comment on changes at the bar.

“MARI continues to be concerned about the number of ABOs in Carrollton, which already has more ABOs than any area of the City other than the French Quarter, and particularly concerned about this location, which has previously been sanctioned by the City for serving alcohol to under-aged patrons,” Hardie wrote in an email. “We hope that the future will bring a broader range of businesses to Maple Street.”

Annex opens at 7 p.m. everyday, except Thursday when it opens at 5 p.m. Blanchard said he is currently obtaining permits to open the kitchen. The show airs in mid-February.

“[Taffer] made us realize all the potential we had and it’s been the greatest thing in the entire world,” Luquette said.

Marta Jewson is a freelance reporter and photographer based in New Orleans.

[Note: This article was first posted at 1:25 p.m. Friday and updated at 5:07 p.m. with Hardie's comment.]

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  • Maple St. Neighbor

    You can improve the quality of life in the neighborhood by curbing underage drinking and getting rid of the college crowd. Tj Qills’ was a menace and lets’ hope you can keep the College crowd away because we don’t want them here. They are rude, loud, drunk and show no respect for the neighborhood. The College crowd vomits on our sidewalks and in our mailboxes. The College crowd urinates in our yards. Prove it to the neighbors that you can be an Adult neighborhood bar–without the college crowd and we will love you for it.

    • Green Wave 05

      You chose to live within walking distance of two college campuses, blocks from frat row and in a popular area for off-campus apartments, what the hell do you think is going to happen? Be thankful they’re walking and not driving. I was once a college student who frequented Maple St (Brunos) and may have stumbled home from there a few times. Did we get obnoxious? Of course. Even as a student I opted for an apartment on the quieter side of campus on Palmer so I didn’t have to live in the middle of the party.

  • http://twitter.com/alrober1 Abby Roberts

    As a former college student from whom TJ Quills was a staple, and a now young professional in the city, I’m happy to see the new owner try to appeal to college and non-college crowds, and although many college students are obnoxious drunks and disrespectful of the neighborhood, it’s unfair to assume every college student is a menace. It’s also bad business sense. So kudos to the new owner for working toward compromise! I can’t wait to try this bar out and quietly and respectfully go home at a reasonable hour :)

  • Jeez Man

    The neighborhood claims to dislike the college crowd. Well what do you think keeps your property values stable? The fact that you can rent your homes for an 8-12% return if need be. The fact that it’s the most bankable area in New Orleans, not because of the innate beauty (which is plentiful), but because of the universities that bring the students in in droves and the students who dump 110% of their disposable income into your businesses.

  • ahc

    To think that any bar is going to make property values stable is ridiculous. And for that matter any bar that serves alcohol bringing in an overall positive tax revenue to the city is a complete myth. If that were true, New Orleans, with it’s BOURBON STREET as well as the city with the most bars per capita in America would be at least have something to show for all that tax revenue. But instead, New Orleans and Louisiana has the poorest paid pubic employees, police and on top of that NOLA has the highest poverty rate in the nation, next to Mississippi. No Fortune 500 companies, except Entergy and now, no Avondale. Oh, yes those DRIVE-THROUGH DAIQUIRI SHOPS and UNDER ADMISSION 21 BARS are really helping NOLA.

    And this same crowd wants to Legalize Marijuana for the TAX REVENUE? HA, Where is the tax benefit from REPEALING PROHIBITION for New Orleans? If repealing prohibition really made any positive revenue different, someone forgot to tell New Orleans and Louisiana, the poorest of the poor and a declining population….Yes, you smart a** lawyers who argue and debate all this legalization of alcohol and rdrugs have nothing to show for yourselves, not in New Orleans, Louisiana or even the USA…which by the way is 16 TRILLION in DEBT and a lot has to do with all those social programs, like housing, clueless education for all those addicts who by the way are poor and homeless or in prison, not to mention public schools for the poor that have no effect…wonder why?

    [some for Europe as well....all their social programs are now going to he** and forget the Euro while you are at it.]

  • Jeez Man

    That’s a lot of out of context blather, and off-topic ranting AHC. The universities make the property value stable. The kids are a part of the universities. The bar and food businesses are an inevitable result of having a college crowd. You can’t separate the two. Show me a college town that isn’t religious that doesn’t have bars and all the same common problems.
    And your rant about how poor Louisiana and New Orleans and the U.S. are – completely off-topic. You sound like a schizofrenic who can’t tell when two ideas are separate. The mismanagement of public funds is why those municipalities are broke, not the insufficiency of the alcohol tax. And just what does legalization of MJ have to do with ANY of this?
    Bottom line: If you want to enjoy the benefits of a college area, with stable property values and a high level of services, then you have to take the bad with the good. You have to accept that what makes the area so attractive is also what adds a certain amount of opportunistic annoyance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-BeerBuddha-Labadie/1151723282 Jeremy BeerBuddha Labadie

    Impact that the beer industry alone has on the state of Louisiana. http://www.beerleague.com/economicimpact.php

  • ahc

    To those who like to point out the tax revenue from ALCOHOL sales, if there were actually hundreds of millions in economic benefit and tax revenue, why the below budget cuts?

    Criminal Court threatened with 30 percent budget cut for 2013
    - NOLA.com
    http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/11/criminal_court_threatened_with.html#incart_river_default

    Let’s look at it at the person to person level. How many New Orleans bartenders and waitresses or those in the tourism and service industry do you know that can afford to buy a new Mercedes OR buy a house?

    And even if they could, where is the MONEY from their taxes? It certainly didn’t find it’s way to New Orleans or Louisiana as it’s the poorest city and state in America, next to last place Mississippi.