Jan 112013
 

Square Root is planned for the former Shop of Two Sisters on Magazine Street. (Image via Google Maps)

Marlon “Buck” Horton announces to the City Council that he is closing his restaurant, Finger Lick’n Wings. (via nolacitycouncil.com)

The new Square Root restaurant planned by Root chef Phillip Lopez for lower Magazine Street was granted permission to sell alcohol by the New Orleans City Council on Thursday, but the former City Council candidate who owns Finger Lick’n Wings said he is closing his restaurant after repeated denials of his request for alcohol sales.

Square Root is slated for 1800 Magazine Street, which was formerly the Shop of Two Sisters. The developers of the venture, Kevin Schneider and Nicholas Shay, plan to add a gallery along the length of Magazine Street to the building, the application notes.

City planners recommended the standard requirements to prevent the restaurant from turning into a bar: such as not staying open past midnight, providing food whenever the restaurant is open and prohibiting go cups. With no discussion or questions, the City Council approved the conditional use for alcohol sales by a unanimous vote.

Earlier in the meeting, however, the City Council put to rest an old motion by former interim Councilwoman Diana Bajoie that would have allowed Marlon “Buck” Horton to sell beer and wine at Finger Lick’n Wings on Jackson Avenue. The City Council had previously denied Horton’s request for liquor sales there, but Bajoie suggested sending the matter back to the City Planning Commission for a beer-and-wine permit — which would have saved Horton the time and money of filing again.

Councilwoman Stacy Head had previously expressed concerns about the idea, and on Thursday newly-elected City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said that the motion would be withdrawn. Horton then appeared, greeting several council members that he met during what he called an “entertaining” bid for office, and said he felt let down.

“I know your minds have been made up about my business. I wasn’t treated fairly,” Horton said. He added, “This is the reason young African Americans and small businesses can’t grow, because you all didn’t even try to help me.”

Cantrell said that she gave Horton’s request ample consideration, visiting the restaurant this week and walking the neighborhood. One couple, she said, showed her bullet holes in their home they said resulted from an event at Horton’s restaurant.

“It’s not up to the council to build consensus in the community for your establishment,” Cantrell said. “At the end of the day, it will be the residents of those neighborhoods that we will listen to.”

Without the ability to sell alcohol, Horton said he is giving up on the venture.

“It’s time for me to move on,” Horton said. “My restaurant will be closed as of today. There’s nothing else I can do.”

After the meeting, Horton confirmed that the restaurant is closed, and he is exploring options for other locations.

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  • Buck Horton

    I want to thank all of you who supported me. It was fun and a good learning experience. It was a pleasure to showcase my cooking talent. This move was expected from the start, looking back on all the people that told me that the power to be was against me, I realize that this political world is real, I’ve even experienced it during my run for city council. #corrupt

    In response to Ms. Cantrell statement about a shooting there never was a shooting at any of my events. Those who are for and even those against me can verify that. #never a shooting. To bad I ran against Ms. Cantrell, I can’t get her support now. I met with Ms. Cantrell several times as she tried to get me to drop out of the election and join her, her words to me “if you drop out and join me I would do every thing in my power to help you with getting your license”. Any way I didn’t drop out, she got the support of Stacy Head at the very end in which she didn’t need however, she now on her team. Meaning Stacy didn’t want me in business. All they had to do was send it back to city planning and let me and the community work on a plan that works for all. #simply

    Thanks once again.
    Marlon “Buck” Horton

    • http://www.facebook.com/lyle.luquette Lyle Luquette

      Open on the westbank in JP, they appreciate tax dollars and hard workers

    • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

      I’m sorry to hear you’re shutting down, I’m sorry about the treatment you received along the way. It should not be this difficult to run a business in this city. You took a risk opening up on a part of Jackson Avenue with significant blight and virtually no other commerce. I think that this is going to seriously hinder any redevelopment in that area.

      • uptanons

        You are missing the point. I personally do not have an issue with an establishment serving alcohol from this location. I agree this stretch of Jackson is need of improvement. The underlying issue is Mr. Horton was an irresponsible business owner. I personally witnessed the reprecussions of an out of control party. It got substantial media attention. The article 2 weeks ago had a YouTube link showing a video of a different party. It showed Mr. Horton standing on a ladder shouting curse words into an amplified microphone outside in the parking lot at one of his unpermitted parties. He made the life of his neighbors miserable. He flat out lied to the Coliseum Assoc about outside seating. He extorted the surrounding neighbors that he would only stop having parties if they supported his alcohol license application. What part of he is an irresponsible business owner that you do not understand? Again in my opinion the issue is not the alcohol permit at this location. It is simply this specific irresponsible business. It rightfully should “be this difficult to run a business in this city” when you are this irresponsible. Mr. Horton was treated fairly and given due process. The surrounding citizens spoke up and their rights for a peaceful life was upheld.

        • Buck Horton

          He’s not missing the point, it’s clear you are 110% against me. Time and time again all you do is get on here and twist the truth. I’m not denying the fact about events at my place however none of them was as bad as labeled. The 1 incident that ended with a fight didn’t even start at my place. I know personally all this is bs, at this point I’m moving forward and I wish That you do also. You are definitely in the wind of trying to slander my business. There’s absolutely nothing irresponsible about me. #nothing.

        • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

          uptanons,

          I never saw any evidence that we were talking about more than a handful of events with these parties (at least nothing at the Coliseum Square meeting indicated otherwise), and I tended to see those more as efforts to drum up more business — the need for which was at lease plausibly tied to the lack of a liquor license. I understand viewing parties that annoy neighbors as being evidence of irresponsibility of a business owner, but the combination of good neighbor agreements and ABO oversight would have probably prevented further violations, and even if it did not, it would have provided a better avenue of enforcing restrictions.

          I also think you’re exaggerating the other issues. As for outdoor seating, he had a couple of picnic tables out front but nothing resembling a full outdoor seating area like, say, the Rusty Nail has, and I think any confusion was related to that. Likewise, telling neighbors that he would forgo special events in exchange for support of his bid for ABO permit is not “extortion” but rather negotiation — presumably he wouldn’t need to hold special events if he had regular revenue from alcohol sales.

          I’m not saying that Buck was always considerate of his neighbors or that these issues were irrelevant; I’m just saying that Buck wasn’t given a way forward and now we’re left with an empty space on a blighted street. I’m also saying that Buck’s opposition was very patronizing and doctrinaire in their approach, suggesting that poor people can’t be trusted with any ABOs in their neighborhoods. Arguments about parties were being used, it seemed to me, as a pretext for the idea that the area around the River Garden needs to be an “alcohol-free zone.” This entire mess should leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

      • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

        The reason that part of the city has significant blight is because of the crime from all the broken families that split up cause the man of the family didn’t show up for the work cause he was too drunk the night before.

        Moreover, the reason why there is no commerce there (or in New Orleans in general) is because the metro area is a bunch of alcoholics.

        Didn’t Sal Perricone allegedly commented, and I paraphrase, “the city needs to get over its love affair with alcohol”, or something to that sort. You can talk all about resigning in disgrace, but I believe Perricone will be so right in speaking up as New Orleans is getting smaller each day as companies are still leaving and new companies find out they can’t survive with a workforce that doesn’t show up to work on time (or show up at all) cause they are too busy partying on Bourbon Street and enjoying all that “culture”.

        Twitter: @AhContraire

        • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

          AhContraire,

          This sounds like an advertisement from the Women’s Temperance League. The main reasons that New Orleans lacks commerce are too much regulation, corruption,patronage and bureaucracy over the years to compete with our peers. Other reasons we can’t help, like geography (we’re land-poor and hurricane prone, and the port can move further upriver to avoid both), but we should be working to change the factors we can, and preventing a business from thriving is a step backward.

          In any case, there is actually little evidence that New Orleans has an exceptionally high rate of alcoholism, despite its reputation. Forbes, Men’s Health, The Daily Beast and US News and World Report have all done lists of America’s drunkest cities based on selected factors, and New Orleans didn’t make the top 10 on any of their lists. You know who made the top 10 on every one of those lists? Austin, which is kicking our collective kiesters economically. There is no clear correlation between rate of alcohol consumption and economic growth.

          Furthermore, the most objective measure of chronic alcoholism is the rate of death from liver disease, and on this we rank 55th in the country among cities over 10,000. For context, Denver ranks 5th, Albuquerque ranks 11th, San Antonio ranks 22nd, and Phoenix ranks 26th. We’re actually pretty good about not drinking ourselves to death. The “we’re poor because we’re drunks” narrative you’re trying to create simply doesn’t hold water.

          • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

            I would say that the most objective measure of chronic alcoholism cannot be liver disease, at least not for New Orleans.

            Here’s why.

            In order to be “chronic” it would have to take “time” for the disease to occur. However, because there are so few decent jobs in New Orleans, people would go BROKE well before they had any signs of liver disease. Hence, they are long gone before they get liver disease, but are still plastered, drunk and wasted while in New Orleans. Just remember a lot of people come and go in New Orleans, but the short time they are here, they can be drunk most of the time, if they are able to get of hold a job.

            In other words, the high turnover ratio of those that live in New Orleans for the short time they are in NOLA can easily skew rankings and the true alcoholic behavior.

            Other cities have jobs, so they can work, get drunk, and die there for a long time.

          • TimGNO

            In no particular order:
            (1) New Orleans did just make #8 on a recent list of “Most Alcoholic Cities” (with Boston being #1).
            (2) Buck Horton is a nice guy with a pretty astute business sense, and a nose for sniffing out prejudice.
            (3) Just as urban legend tended to magnify the St. Thomas’ negative public perception, I assert that so, too, have Horton’s detractors done with Finger Lickn’s outlook…
            (4) …due to many of the same outmoded beliefs.
            (5) Councils and by-laws can amount to modern day tar and feathers, when appropriately applied. I’m sure Horton learned another lesson: He could’ve just kept his mouth shut and run a quiet-but-classy establishment like Stein’s Deli, where, as in heaven, “nothing ever happens.”

      • Buck Horton

        Thanks Owen

    • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

      “I was always glad to see it doing well in a stretch of Jackson (riverside of Magazine) that really, really needed it.”

      This is key. I heard some complaints made that the restaurant wasn’t fancy enough and threw a few rowdy block parties, but how fancy do you need to be surrounded by vacant lots, poorly-maintained/blighted homes, crumbling warehouses and an abandoned ferry terminal? That area desperately needs anyone who is willing to invest in it, and this could have been the start of that. It was a wasted opportunity to encourage redevelopment.

      In any case, a liquor license would presumably have increased profits to fund renovations, but why throw money at upgrades when you can’t even give people beer with their wings? This was horribly counterproductive.

    • Nicholas Brody

      Hey Mr. Horton,

      I just want to say that I’m truly broken up over the situation with your restaurant. The fact that you ran a great business and put out the best wings I’ve eaten in the city (any of my friends at the last couple years’ Super Bowl parties will say the same), and the trouble you faced in trying to obtain a beer & wine permit was the reason I sent a vote your way back during the election.

      I can see that you brought some life and some flavor to Jackson Ave. I’m disappointed that it continues to be so easy for an upscale place just around the corner to obtain their permit – there is not doubt in my mind that the people who feel threatened by a chicken joint throwing some bounce parties are not the people who actually have an interest in seeing a too-long-ignored corner of the city revived.

      If you decide to keep your wing operation going or do some catering, please let me know here – I’ll be sad to miss your Mardi Gras and Obama wings this Super Bowl.

      Best of luck to you and God bless,

      Nick Brody

      • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

        If this guy really had the best chicken wings in town, why does this guy need to sell alcohol? Didn’t Popeye’s start with only 1 store? Did that 1st Popeye’s store need beer to financially survive? If this guy’s chicken wings were that good, he would be too busy serving customers, racking in cash, and worrying if he had enough chicken for the next day as opposed to spending all your time getting beer permit.

        • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

          A fried chicken joint is not the same a a wingery. It’s just not. Every other wingery I know sells alcohol, as do all the other places I buy wings from (usually bars, because wings are widely considered to be a bar food). You can’t tell me that the lack of liquor license wouldn’t be a major impediment to the profitability of a wingery.

          • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

            So are you implying that this guy’s “chicken wings” taste no better than “bar” food? Hence, he needs a liquor license to survive. And will essentially be another “bar” in the neighborhood serving alcohol 1st and wings 2nd? And all under the guise (or name) of a “chicken wing joint”?

          • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

            AhContraire,

            Clearly I wasn’t implying that. Also, I don’t consider “bar food” to be necessarily derogatory. There are great pubs and taverns that serve food in this city (a certain fellow columnist, in fact, produced gourmet bar food at Avenue Pub for a time).

            What I’m saying is that beer and wings are, as Forrest Gump would say, “like peas and carrots.” A wingery that can’t serve beer will struggle. It doesn’t turn a wingery into a bar, especially not when the liquor license is restricted to beer and wine.

      • Buck Horton

        Nick, I thank you for your support.

    • disqus_fu9vmrCPnp

      It’s been a number of years since I had to deal with the City Council. It can be a nightmare. The politics and underhanded deceptions can be disheartening. You meet with a council person or with their assistant….And they leave you with the indication that they will support you. But then….When the vote gets counted….They leave you in the dust.
      It’s tough….and disheartening. Furthermore…I don’t see why they just don’t give the liquor license. In the drop of a dime they can always revoke it….So whats the big deal.
      Everyone knows that the liquor license is what can make or break any small restaurant business. Thats where the profit is.

  • Ray

    As I understand it, one neighborhood association was in favor of the alcohol sales and another was not. My experience as a former president of one large neighborhood association in a mixed use neighborhood is that they most often do not fully represent the neighbors’ thoughts. The types of extremists who tend to oppose most commerce are the ones who get involved in the neighborhood associations in a disproportionate way. Often the 1 or 2% of neighbors who oppose a new business coming in, or expanding, are the ones who get active in the neighborhood association, even while the other 98 or 99% of neighbors either are not opposed or support the new business. Apathy of the regular people is the problem. City Council will use the mostly-NIMBY neighborhood associations’ oppositions as an excuse to keep away things they don’t like for a variety of reasons that have little to do with keeping our hoods mixed use, walkable, full of life, and economically vibrant (and competitive with the aggressive and savvy chains in the burbs and even in our city). I don’t know all the details here. BUt I ate at Finger Lickin’ Wings twice and enjoyed it. And I was always glad to see it doing well in a stretch of Jackson (riverside of Magazine) that really, really needed it.

  • TheNewRiverGarden

    blaming the council for not supporting him shows he doesn’t get it. the council is there to listen to the people they represent, and the people were heard. if you have all this support from your precinct, why every time I pass the restaurant the parking lot is empty, lights are out, doors are closed? I called once, line disconnected, went in once, cash only, really, in this day in age?! buck said all his “events” were authorized. I can give you the emails from Commander Bardy stating they weren’t if anyone would like..? Buck said those parties are part of his St. Thomas Heritage. Sorry Buck, but this isn’t St. Thomas anymore, this is River Garden. Certain rules and standards now apply that are different from when it WAS St. Thomas. The shooting incident may not have happened on your property, but it stemmed from your “event”, therefor you are involved whether its fair or not.