Thai restaurant on Maple Street wins initial approval for alcohol sales despite neighbors’ concerns

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The Singha Song restaurant on Maple Street. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

Alcohol sales could return to a Maple Street building that currently houses a new Thai restaurant, despite neighbors’ concerns that its history as a college bar could repeat.

The Singha Song restaurant in the 7700 block of Maple won approval Tuesday from the City Planning Commission to serve alcohol, after agreeing to restrict drink sales to food orders and to continue its current closing times of 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.

“It’s not a sports bar or a bar, it’s a sit-down restaurant,” said Jill Gautreaux, attorney for the restaurant. “They’ve been open for about six months now, and their clientele is mostly families. They’re not really attracting too many college students.”

About a half dozen members of Maple Area Residents Inc., however, urged the Planning Commission to recall the building’s history as a “white-linen” restaurant about 10 years ago that gradually morphed into a college bar known as Uptown Cajun.

“This became a wild college bar, as if we didn’t already have enough, and we hope you’re going to take action today to prevent that,” said nearby resident Keith Hardie. “The alcoholic beverage issue in the neighborhood is a problem. We don’t really want any more alcoholic beverage outlets. We feel like there are enough.”

“Maple Street … is basically turning into a mall,” said resident David Keiffer. “Groups of students move down Maple Street from one end at Broadway to Madigan’s at Carrollton and over to Oak Street.”

The Planning Commission focused on the residents’ specific concerns about the location, rather than the more general issue on Maple Street. After detailing operating conditions intended to prevent another return to a college bar, commissioners voted 7-0 in favor of the alcohol sales there, a recommendation that will be forwarded to the City Council for final approval.

The restaurant’s attorney assured the commission that the conditions would be followed this time.

“I understand there may be a history, but it’s simply not applicable,” Gautreaux said. “This is simply not going to be a college sports bar.”

10 thoughts on “Thai restaurant on Maple Street wins initial approval for alcohol sales despite neighbors’ concerns

  1. Good for them. My wife works there. This is not a college bar. It is a simple restaurant, and it will not survive unless they can sell alcoholic beverages. When people come in to eat and find out they can’t get a beer or drinks, many leave. If you simply want that site to remain empty, then don’t give it a liquor license. Nobody can survive there otherwise.

  2. Do they serve liquor at their downtown location? I don’t believe so. And they will be the only restaurant on the block to serve alcohol. Chill Out Cafe & Babylon Cafe are both BYOB, no corkage fee.

    It doesn’t matter regardless. I’m of the opinion that we give them all liquor permits so they can be successful. The loss of Latter&Blum on Maple St. was hard on the restaurants so if they need some liquid courage to prop up their business so be it. The last thing we need is another vacant bldg. on Maple St.

    I live a lot closer than David to Maple St. and have never seen this “mall” effect he’s talking about. I guess no one was willing to let him finger-paint pictures of the building so he doesn’t support it.

      • Teddy,

        I’m out at all hours which is why I love my neighborhood.

        The Orleans Parish Assessors Office lists Michael R. Laughlin % South La Petroleum Co. as the owner. nolaassessor.com

        It also lists the only Martin in the area living on Burdette more than a dozen blocks from Maple on the other side of Willow outside of MARI territory.

  3. The article perpetuates a common misconception. A conditional use isn’t given to the operator of the restaurant, it is issued to the property owner and goes with the property. So the issue isn’t whether the current operator is a good joe or not, it’s whether the landlord (and anyone he sells the property to) is going to make sure that future operators follow the conditions of the conditional use ordinance. This landlord allowed, for years, bars masquerading as restaurants, including a sports bar, to operate under a conditional use permit that allowed a restaurant with alcohol, but (1) prohibited a bar accessible to the public, and (2) prohibited the sale of alcohol except with meals. The landlord picked up his rent checks for years, knowing that the ordinance wasn’t being followed, and ignored the complaints of nearby residents. But this happens all the time. A few months ago the City audited a another operation on Maple with a restaurant license on and found it was selling 90% alcohol and 10% food. Its naive to think these guys are angels.
    The original Conditional Use Ordinance for this site was issued in @ 2001, and prohibited a bar accessible to customers and the serving of alcohol except in conjunction with meals. After the owner allowed it to open as a sports bar selling alcohol to 2 am, and following years of complaints, the Council finally rescinded his Conditional Use in 2009. The landlord was the applicant for the Conditional use recommended by the Planning Commission this week. Singha Song Restaurant, the operator, was NOT the applicant. Basically, the non-compliant landlord was hiding behind the skirts of the nice restaurant people in an attempt to get his conditional use back. And despite the implication in the article, the neighbors got close to what they wanted, as the CPC basically returned to the conditions of the original conditional use ordinance: no bar, and alcohol to be served only with meals, and threw in limited hours of operation. If this operator or some successor violates those provisos, the conditional use can be rescinded again (though its a difficult process), and maybe this time the owner won’t get it back. So remember, a conditional use is forever, and when one goes bad, you’re going to have to invest a whole lot of time and money to get it rescinded. So you shouldn’t support a conditional use ABO just because you like the current operator. It’s not that simple.

  4. Uptown Cajun was open for less than year. MARI would rather have vacant buildings then operating buis. The MARI is going to be really concerned when the “blacks” start showing up in this area.

  5. Teddy my apologies if you are actually a resident of the Maple Area I was going off the assessor’s office site which is where I pulled the owner of the bldg’s name.

  6. Some locations like this one have layered histories. Alcohol or not, this is just a bad location. The steps on the front and the small porch. The lack of parking. The poor visibility from the street. Alcohol sales will only prolong what is an inevitable death. Singha Song should cut their losses now and move on. As this site has been different food businesses over the years (Remember Coffee & Company? Remember Nautical?), the use of the site needs changing, not the addition of alcohol.

  7. I really like this restaurant. I appreciate having another dining choice on Maple St. I would prefer they are byob, but hope they are successful with a liquor license and stay there. Maple St Cafe has one and I’m unaware of any problems.

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