When the Courtyard Brewery first presented their project to neighbors back in October, they had hoped for a February or March opening. Their request to sell beer out of a small tap room on site was finally placed on the City Planning Commission docket for Jan. 28, and even then felt like the project was moving forward at a surprisingly quick pace, said Lindsay Hellwig, who owns the brewery with her husband, Scott Wood.
Numerous neighbors and the neighborhood association sent in letters of wholehearted support for the project. The City Planning staff issued a report generally in favor of the request, though it contained two conditions — prohibiting live music or any events outdoors on the property — that Hellwig and Wood planned to seek to renegotiate at the Jan. 28 meeting.
That Jan. 28 meeting was canceled, however, as the city shut down for the ice storm. At the time, the couple was told that the delay allowed them time to submit more detailed drawings that might help their case on the outdoor events, which they quickly assembled and sent, Hellwig said. But on Tuesday — when the Planning Commission was scheduled to meet again — city officials told the commissioners that while the drawings had all been received, staff members had not had time to review them, and asked that the decision be deferred for two more meetings.
“They need a month to review what we sent in two days?” Hellwig said in an interview after the meeting. “There goes another month — another month of rent, another month of not making money. It kills a tiny startup.”Though they had been told ahead of Tuesday’s meeting to expect the deferral, Wood appeared anyway to plead for only a single meeting’s delay. The staff said they would not have time to review the new documents prior to the next meeting, however, so the commissioners then voted to wait the two meetings, setting the Courtyard Brewery on the March 11 docket.
The project must still get final approval from the City Council by April 12, so Hellwig and Wood hope they can still be open by their goal of July 4. But their initial optimism is wearing off, Hellwig said, and she is beginning to understand the repeated warnings they received about the difficult pace of starting a business in New Orleans.
“It’s really frustrating when you do everything immediately, on point, and then there are all of these setbacks,” Hellwig said. “We were like, this is what everyone is talking about.”
The commission heard two other Uptown items Tuesday:
Wine shop on O.C. Haley | Brady’s Wine Warehouse — a new wine shop planned by Patrick Brady on property owned by developer Peter Gardner at 1029 O.C. Haley (in the Central Business District at the edge of Central City) — won approval from the planning commission, despite concerns of some downtown residents who thought it might exacerbate problems with the homeless population who live under the adjacent Pontchartrain Expressway. Attorney Justin Schmidt assured the commission that the plan is for a high-end establishment that will not cater to the homeless, and the item passed.
Parking at the Free School condo redevelopment | The commission also approved a plan to put off-street parking on the site of the former New Orleans Free School at 3601 Camp Street. The lot will be a mix of parking spaces for tenants and contract parking for the general public, developer Steve Montagnet said. The developers are unsure who might end up leasing the parking spots — whether surrounding residents, doctors at nearby Touro Infirmary or others — but neighbors felt the idea would help ease the on-street parking pressure in the area, Montagnet said.
To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.
[Update, Feb. 13: This post has been updated to clarify the ownership of Brady's Wine Warehouse.]