Apr 092013

The former Dunbar’s restaurant on Freret is slated to become a second restaurant operated by the owners of Three Muses on Frenchmen. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The owner of Three Muses made her second trip to visit a Freret neighborhood group on Tuesday night as plans progress toward her opening of a variation on her celebrated Frenchmen Street restaurant and nightclub in a space once heralded as one of Freret’s top destinations.

Sophie Lee described her concept for “The Muse on Freret” in similar terms to the Freret Neighbors United as she did before The New Freret business and property owners association last month. The food will be at the forefront on Freret Street, with drinks and acoustic music in the background, rather than the equal emphasis on all three elements found in the Frenchmen original, Lee said.

The restaurant will be housed in the former home of Dunbar’s Creole Cooking at 4927 Freret, which moved to Loyola’s campus after Hurricane Katrina and since announced plans to reopen in Gentilly. While the paperwork on the deal has not been finalized, a tentative plan would be to open in late 2013.

Neighborhood input, Lee said, was crucial as she planned Three Muses on Frenchmen.

“It’s very important to me that my neighbors felt like that was their second home,” Lee said.

The Freret neighborhood has recently been debating a proposal to hire additional security patrols in the neighborhood through a parcel-based fee, and several of the long-time residents of the neighborhood who have recently begun attending Neighbors United meetings to voice their opinion on the fee expressed concerns Tuesday night about the traffic coming to the neighborhood to visit the explosion of restaurants.

Andrew Amacker, president of the association, said that the 40 or 50 seats at the new restaurant could add 10 to 20 cars to the street at peak hours. While the zoning law on Freret won’t require off-street parking or a good-neighbor agreement with the association, Amacker said he understood the frustration of neighbors more frequently finding their driveways blocked by diners.

“As the neighborhood, we’re not saying it’s part of a good-neighbor agreement, but we’d like to know,” Amacker says.

Kellie Grengs of The New Freret replied that no one business should be held responsible for the increased parking burden on the neighborhood. That increased traffic likewise increases the safety of the neighborhood, developer Greg Ensslen added.

Stan Norwood of Dennis Barber Shop said that all the businesses on the street should participate in making sure their patrons park considerately. One way is to make phone numbers available to neighbors for the business managers, Norwood said, in case residents need to call and complain about a poorly parked car.

“It is going to be crowded, and it is going to impose on neighbors,” Norwood said.

After the meeting, the developer of the building slated for The Muse, Jessica Leone of JWL Realty, agreed that the parking issue is too large for any one business to solve. Meanwhile, most of the feedback from residents on the restaurant plan has been positive, she said.

“For the most part, we’ve been well received by everyone,” Leone said. “We hope that we can continue that and bring a great project to a property that’s been vacant for a while.”

Security district | While the security-district proposal was on most minds Tuesday night, it was not discussed in detail. Instead, Amacker said that its stated proponents and opponents from last month’s meeting have agreed to sit down and come up with a list of possible alternatives to improve security, incorporating ideas that range from increased patrols to a network of surveillance cameras to a request for blue-light patrols from the Second District police.

The small group will present all the ideas they come up with at May’s meeting, and then the association will open the question up to voting on each item among the proposals, receiving ballots until June, Amacker said. Meanwhile, no official action will be requested of state or city officials until those votes are tallied, he said.

“It’s not rushing through, because we’re talking about voting over the course of a solid month,” Amacker said.

To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.

  • The parking problem would be less if the immediate residents patronized the new restaurant. Additional “traffic” can be a deterrent to crime by having more legitimate activity on the street. I have been a long-time friend and supporter of Sophie Lee at her highly successful place on Frenchmen Street and the high quality of her operation is a boon to the neighborhood. In other words, you ain’t gonna get more classy than Miss Sophie Lee!

    • Hi Donald,
      I agree. When we start moving away from a car culture and embracing a pedestrian/bike friendly culture there will be even more eyes on the street. The Freret jet is also a great way to get to the corridor and the street car is only an 8 block walk.
      It was unfair to put the entire parking situation on this one potential business owner as it is a city wide issue.
      Kellie Grengs
      Volunteer Board Member

      The New Freret

  • oh_but_no

    This is such a tired argument from those who oppose progress and growth. How about we just let the city ticket and tow cars that are parked illegally, as it does every chance it gets in other neighborhoods?