The Freret Beer Room won easy approval from the New Orleans City Council to add an “Annex” selling packaged liquor next door, despite a slightly more contentious path through the city planning process earlier this summer.
Eli Gay, owner of the Freret Beer Room, needed a conditional-use permit from the City Council in order to sell alcohol packaged for retail sale at 5012 Freret Street, half of a shotgun double he is calling the “Freret Beer Annex” next to his restaurant. City planners had been supportive of his request with a few specific operating conditions, primarily that they be given final approval of all signage and that the floor area for the liquor sales not exceed what is shown in the current plans.
“These things can be good or bad, often dependent on the quality of the management,” said city planner Stephen Kroll in the July 12 meeting of the City Council. “If it’s well done, it can be a really great addition to the neighborhood.”
No one spoke in opposition to the Freret Beer Annex before the City Council, unlike at City Planning in May, when Supermercado Las Acacias owner Alba Sanabria questioned why this project was receiving such favorable treatment when her business had to fight so hard to sell individual beers two years ago. Dat Dog owner Constantine Georges had also written the planning commission in opposition, expressing concern about discarded liquor bottles trashing the street around his flagship restaurant.
The city planning commissioners had sided strongly with the Freret Beer Room back in May, and the City Council followed suit this month, with Councilman Jay H. Banks offering a motion to approve the project and the rest of the council voting unanimously in support without any questions. Gay’s sole comment was to thank them and the city staff for their reports.
“I’m looking forward to adding something nice that Freret doesn’t already have,” Gay said.
Similarly, a request to sell packaged liquor at the “Little Den” convenience store at South Claiborne and Louisiana avenues was also approved at the same meeting. Like the Freret Beer Annex, the Little Den carried the support of the planning commission.
“They simply want to sell packaged alcohol to the groceries they offer,” Kroll said. “If responsibly managed, it’s really to be not problematic at all.”
The manager, Brahim Mohamed, said he had been a responsible owner of convenience stores for 10 years, and was formerly the training manager for hundreds of employees at a chain restaurant.
“I’m here to assure the council member that the training process is going to be my main focus,” Mohamed said. “I hire the right people, and I am the owner and operator so I’m there most of the time.”
The council had no questions for Mohamed, and voted unanimously in favor of the request.