Despite city’s initial OK, neither Rue de la Course nor Ignatius are moving soon, owner says

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No alcohol can be sold with meals at Ignatius, but owner Jerry Roppolo is seeking the city's permission to sell alcohol at another building he owns on Magazine, the current site of Rue de la Course. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

The owner of the popular Rue de la Course coffeehouse on Magazine Street took a step closer Tuesday to being able to convert the location into a restaurant with alcohol sales, but said no immediate plans have been made for the location.

Jerry Roppolo, who owns Rue and its building, was poised earlier this year to get a liquor license for Ignatius Eatery up the street, but then withdrew after he was unable to reach an agreement with his landlord there. Based on a subsequent plan he presented this month to move Ignatius into Rue’s building, the City Planning Commission voted Tuesday to recommend Roppolo receive a conditional-use permit to sell alcohol in the building he owns, but Roppolo said any changes to either location are still a long way off.

“I believe our building would be a lot more valuable as a restaurant, and by getting a conditional use I have the opportunity to open a restaurant there,” Roppolo said. “Does that mean it’s going to happen? No. I’m just investigating and looking.”

His actual lease for Ignatius has more than five years remaining on it, he said, so he is in no hurry to make any change. He also could conceivably swap the two locations, putting Ignatius in his building with alcohol sales and the coffeehouse in the building he is leasing, he said, or purchase another building so that he owns the location of both, but it all depends on the costs associated with the process and the difficulty of getting city approval.

For the foreseeable future, Roppolo said, “Rue will always be around.” But, ultimately, Roppolo said he’s trying to plan for his retirement over the next five years, and may end up selling the businesses but remaining the landlord.

“We’re not going to be here forever, I hate to tell everyone,” Roppolo said. “We’re planning for the future.”

Tuesday’s planning commission meeting also included action on three other Uptown properties:

Konbini, a proposed coffee shop and Japanese convenience store on South Carrollton, was unanimously recommended for denial of the zoning change it needs to operate. Commissioners rejected the applicant’s fiery argument that the site’s long history of commercial use qualifies it to reopen as a business, and told him that he should have known before he invested in it that it had reverted to residential zoning.

A rendering of the Walgreens on South Claiborne after a $1.4 million renovation project.

Walgreens on South Claiborne was recommended for approval to sell alcohol, if it meets a number of conditions. Store attorney Justin Schmidt said Walgreens is spending $1.4 million on renovations to the building and landscaping, and should not be required to also change the sign, as the planning staff suggested. Commissioners agreed with the planning staff that permission to sell alcohol should come with specific requirements, however, and kept the requirement for a new sign among the conditions.

A fresh-food market planned for Earhart Boulevard gained approval for the commercial zoning it needs by a 6-3 vote. Commissioners voting in favor cited the need for fresh food in the Gert Town area and the fact that the shotgun house planned for the market is in the middle of a commercial stretch. Those opposed said they were sympathetic to those facts but agreed with the planning staff’s assessment that the project, though needed and a good fit for the neighborhood, has a technical conflict with the city’s master plan.

“In this particular case, I think the master plan’s got it wrong,” Commissioner George Amedee said before voting in favor of the project.

Each of the commission’s recommendations now moves to the full City Council for final approval.

To read our live coverage of Tuesday’s meeting, click “Replay” in the box below.

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