The steady lines of enthusiastic diners Friday on Oak Street for Tru Burger’s opening may soon find an addition to the restaurant’s succinct menu of burgers, fries hot dogs and milkshakes: a cold beer.
On Thursday, less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to open, Patois and Tru Burger co-owner Leon Touzet III met with the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association about his desire for a low-volume alcohol license. The restaurant is based on the simple concept of a neighborhood location for high-quality burgers, fries and milkshakes, and alcohol is not an important part of the equation, Touzet told the group.
But some patrons may want a beer with their meal, or perhaps wine, Touzet said, adding that he’s unsure that even wine will be a good fit with the restaurant.
“I just wanted the option to have beer with a burger,” Touzet said. “We plan on opening this place with or without an alcohol license.”
Touzet said he doesn’t plan to stay open late, closing before 10 p.m. on weeknights and by 11 p.m. on weekends. Part of the reason is safety, he said, noting his friendship with a local chef shot last month in a robbery attempt after an all-nighter preparing food. At Patois, Touzet said he asks the neighborhood’s private patrol to escort employees to the car after work.
“I’m not looking for every drunk that wanders off of Maple to get a hamburger,” Touzet said. “It doesn’t generate more revenue. It just creates a headache for everybody. … How much is it going to cost me to sell five more burgers? Labor-wise, it’s not worth it.”
Touzet and the association had already put together the outlines of a good-neighbor agreement to allow alcohol sales, and board member Ann Wolfe Nicolay and other members suggested the agreement say that Touzet be able to stay open about an hour later than he was asking, 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends – the same limits on the newly opened Cowbell nearby.
The other provisions of the agreement, outgoing association president Jerry Speir said, are similar to those the association has already signed with Cowbell and other restaurants such as Saltwater Grill, Oak, Pepporoni’s and others. Alcohol could only be served to customers ordering food and must constitute a minority of Tru Burger’s sales; no go cups, video poker or beer signs would be allowed.
Those conditions brought a note of protest from resident Stephen Novak.
“Are we really secure in telling this business man what he can do? Do we want to be a little careful that we don’t handcuff him into going out of business?” Novak asked. “I was just concerned about how much do we want to tell someone how much they can do to make a buck in their business.”
Nicolay replied that the provisions are similar to those already governing successful businesses elsewhere in the Riverbend.
“The good-neighbor agreement is not to handcuff any business. We live here, we also are going to be customers, and certainly we want all the businesses in this area to be successful,” Nicolay said. “But we live next to them, so we just want to work together and establish some knowns at the forefront.”
The restaurants that have asked Carrollton-Riverbend for their blessing for a liquor license have all gotten approval, noted Speir: the group has no aversion to new businesses.
“We are not those people,” Speir said.
The good-neighbor agreement was unanimously approved. Because Touzet is only asking for a low-volume liquor license, Speir said mention of that will be included in the agreement as well.
Photos by Sabree Hill; article by Robert Morris. Contact us at sabreehill@NolaMessenger.com and rmorris@NolaMessenger.com, or post your comment below. Note: Because of the sensitive and personal nature of this article, comments will be moderated more closely than usual. Please be respectful.