Owners of NYC’s “Maysville” plan New Orleans restaurant at Magazine and Nashville

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A rendering by Studio WTA architects of the redevelopment planned for the corner of Nashville and Magazine. (via nola.gov)

A rendering by Studio WTA architects of the redevelopment planned for the corner of Nashville and Magazine. (via nola.gov)

For years, as celebrated New York City restaurateurs Sean Josephs and Mani Dawes made visits to see Dawes’ mother in New Orleans, the idea of opening a restaurant in Dawes’ hometown was never far from their minds.

“There were a lot of runs around Audubon Park where we fantasized about leaving New York and moving here,” Josephs said. “I didn’t understand that if you marry someone from New Orleans, they’ll always bring you back.”

Sure enough, Josephs and Dawes are now planning a restaurant just a stone’s throw from her mother’s house and Audubon Park, anchoring a redevelopment already underway at the corner of Magazine Street and Nashville Avenue.

Dawes is the owner of Tía Pol, a tapas restaurant in Manhattan, and Josephs owns Char No. 4 in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Maysville, which New York Times restaurant reviewer Pete Wells praised as a “confident restatement of the American tavern.”

“We want to open the kind of restaurant we’ve always opened in New York, which is a neighborhood restaurant,” Josephs said in a meeting with neighbors Monday night. While part of its clientele will come from all over, he said, “The basic idea is meant to serve the community.”

The as-yet-unnamed restaurant will be open all day, starting with a skeleton staff serving baked goods and coffee in the morning, followed by a casual lunch. The late afternoon might offer oysters and a beer, Josephs said, and in the evening, the menu will transition to casual fine dining. Like the New York restaurants, bourbon will remain an important conceptual focus.

“Bourbon is kind of the American drink, the American spirit,” Josephs said. “Both of my restaurants have a significant bourbon selection.”

The couple and their children have moved to a house in New Orleans near the restaurant, and Josephs is commuting a few days every other week back to New York, he said. They plan to keep all three restaurants there open, but he will spend even more time in New Orleans after their restaurant here opens.

The 89-seat restaurant will fit into the redevelopment by Butler Callahan Holdings of three former businesses on Magazine at Nashville — Rare Cuts, Vom Fass and Parcels and Post — into a single structure joined by breezeways. The former Rare Cuts will primarily serve as the restaurant’s dining room, with a few tables outside and in the breezeway, and the former Vom Fass will be the kitchen.

No tenant has been announced for the third building, but Josephs said it is not planned to be a restaurant — a retailer of some sort is more likely. The parking lot in the rear is being reconfigured to hold 17 spaces, of which the restaurant will have 11 at all hours and possibly the remaining six when the retailer is closed. The restaurant will stay open until 10:30 or 11 p.m. on weeknights, and midnight on weekends, though they may scale back the hours if necessary, Dawes said.

“We’re thrilled to be down here. We want to open a very special restaurant,” Dawes said. “It’s not about staying open all hours of the night.”

Josephs and Dawes shared their plans with an audience of about 50 neighbors Monday night as part of the city’s neighborhood-participation requirement for getting a conditional use to serve alcohol in the building. Reactions to the plans ranged from excitement — especially from those who had tried the couple’s offerings in New York — to concern about the impact on the neighborhood, particularly on parking.

Off-street parking is already extremely difficult to find, especially near Magazine, and can be brutal for residents without driveways, neighbors said. And if the couple moves on for some reason, said neighborhood resident Betsy Stout, the next tenant could be a large college bar.

“I was really excited when I heard a new little restaurant was going in there. I was thinking of a restaurant on the scale of Bistro Daisy or Martinique,” Stout said. “[But] The scale of this thing is very big from the get-go, and the fact that’s its open so late and it has a big liquor component.”

Kent Blackwell of the Burtheville Neighborhood Association — which led the fight several years ago against the Gabrielle restaurant’s proposed move to Henry Clay Avenue — asked if the couple had a “Plan B” if they couldn’t get the liquor license.

“Quite frankly, the scale is a lot bigger than most restaurants in the area,” Blackwell said.

Several members of the Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association, however, defended the restaurant. Cindy Schupp, a Realtor and association board member, argued that being walking-distance from so much commercial activity is a primary reason people want to move to the neighborhood, causing the home values to rise so quickly.

“Everyone loves being close to these streets, Magazine Street, Oak Street, Freret Street, where they can walk,” Schupp said.

Tom Rey, another Audubon-Riverside board member, said that Butler Callahan already worked out the parking issues with the city before it began the redevelopment, and that they were open about their plans to put a restaurant on the corner. The restaurateurs, who are merely tenants, should not be held responsible for a parking problem that predates their plans, Rey said.

“There’s going to be a restaurant. Do you want this restaurant? Or do you want a Hooters?” Rey asked. “Let’s be fair to these two.”

Josephs and Dawes told worried neighbors that the restaurant may sound bigger on paper than it will be in reality, comparing it to Clancy’s or Lilette. Its 89 seats only equate to about 20 tables, some of which they said they hope will be filled by neighbors walking to see them. Part of the restaurant’s floor space will also be taken up with storage and office areas, they said, as they get used to working in a city where basements are impossible.

Restaurant employees, likewise, usually take the bus or streetcar or ride a bicycle to work, and the lot behind the building likely represents more parking than most nearby restaurants have, they said. Even so, they pledged to explore what else they can do to help with the parking situation.

“We signed the lease and we were told we had enough parking. It doesn’t mean it’s not our problem. I just didn’t come into this anticipating that this was an issue,” Josephs said. “It means we’re going to have to dig in and figure out how to fix a parking problem we didn’t know existed.”

They hope to receive the empty shell of the building from the developer around December, and best-case scenario would be an opening in spring of 2015.

“For us it was our dream, running around the park and trying to open a restaurant here,” Josephs said. “Obviously we didn’t anticipate the potential of the parking issue, but we still couldn’t be more excited to be here.”

15 thoughts on “Owners of NYC’s “Maysville” plan New Orleans restaurant at Magazine and Nashville

  1. I hope Josephs and Dawes don’t lose much sleep over the “parking issue.” There are 5 to 7 people who can be relied upon to complain about every single new business that opens in this corridor no matter what the conditions are.

    • Nope, sorry will_k2. There’s a very real problem with parking with the 2 existing restaurants that don’t have any parking and adding a third needing about 30 more than what they have is not a made up “parking issue” as you would like to suggest. It’s very real and I hope they get it worked out.

      • binnola, you say “nope, sorry” as if you assume you have superior expertise on the situation. That would be an incorrect assumption. I live within a block of the proposed site and within 100 yards of both Bistro Daisy and Martinique. I do not have offstreet parting, so I park in that neighborhood every single day. It is extremely rare that I have to park more than half a block from my house. What is your “very real problem with parking?” That you don’t get to park immediately in front of your residence anytime you want to?

  2. If there was an incentive for customers to show up at the restaurant without a car, then maybe we may have an enlightened way of dealing with the parking issue not just at that location, but elsewhere.

  3. This is a huge step forward for the space. Great food, conscientious and talented owners, a prove track record of success. I couldn’t be happier to have this restaurant as part of the fabric of the city.
    Good luck Sean and Mani.

    • +1. What a great addition to the neighborhood. It’s unfortunate that the handful of constant complainers also seem to be the people with the most free time on their hands to attend every meeting and moan.

      • That’s not very neighborly and it is typical when one doesn’t have good logic to then attack the opposing viewpoint with insults. For the record, I rarely attend neighborhood meetings and don’t have a lot of free time. I, too, live within a block of the proposed restaurant and I think it is a great concept. To say there is no parking issue is foolish and leads me to think you have some interest in its development or the development of the strip center. Whatever. We have elderly people in the neighborhood and folks getting older. It has become increasingly difficult to park at night close to our front doors. A few years ago there was a mugging in the 5800 block of Camp St. About two months ago there was a guy passed out on my porch at about 9pm. Parking close to our entrances is important not just for convenience but also for safety (and I am not alone–you should actually meet and speak to your neighbors about this). The quality of life deteriorates for those in close proximity when the city allows new restaurants to open without adequate parking. There are solutions to the VERY REAL problem. I only ask that Mani and Sean look into those solutions. And, I, too, wish them the best of luck and look forward to their operation. (You see before you start accusing people, you really ought to get to know them…)

  4. binnola, you might get a more neighborly reception if you didn’t start your responses to people with a dismissive and disrespectful “nope, sorry” and follow them up with accusations of ulterior motives (another incorrect assumption on your part).

    Where there are elderly people in the neighborhood who legitimately require close access, they should request a handicapped zone in front of their residence. If there is any objection to legitimate requests for handicapped zoning, I’ll be the first one at the ARNA meeting to support their requests.

    But it seems your problem is more related to not being able to park close enough to your house to suit your personal needs. I agree that having reliable parking right next to your house is highly desirable. That is why residences with off-street parking are so much more expensive. If you find that the public parking available to you in our neighborhood is insufficient to meet your personal needs for safety and convenience, perhaps the solution is to seek a residence that is a better match for your needs rather than expect that local business owners underwrite your desire for a de facto personal parking space.

    It would seem this approach may work out better for you in the long run. Given you apparently expect the prospective proprietors to address issues up to and including “a guy passed out on my porch at about 9pm,” I think you are likely to ultimately be disappointed by their efforts.

    • I guess under your solution ALL of my neighbors should also just move out? You are in the minority and it makes me think you have a stake in this development. I have spoken to many of my immediate neighbors all with the same concerns. I bought my house in 1985. I have made substantial investment in it which adds to the value of the neighborhood. When I moved in there was one little restaurant called Mais Oui where Martinique is and 1/4 the size of the current Martinique. I have witnessed and have welcomed the addition of great amenities within walking distance, however, it is NOT good urban planning to allow infringement by the proliferation of commercial activity at the expense of the nearby residents. That degrades property values and degrades quality of life. We should not have to move in order to allow a commercial activity to take place without regard for quality of life. I believe my neighbors and I were there first. For some reason this venture has been “grandfathered” in as it relates to parking. The code requires 1 space for every 150 square feet for their sole use. Having said that the real formula for restaurants is 1 space for every 45 square feet of seating area. They fall far short of that. I’m all for them in the neighborhood and we (my neighbors included, except obviously you) should not have to suffer because of bad planning. There’s a solution that works well for all and they should try to solve it. Urban planning is a balance between commercial ventures and residential quality of life.

  5. Your contention that the proliferation of commercial activity degrades property values is completely at odds with the realities of property values in the neighborhood since 1985.

    But don’t let being wrong on the facts slow you down, because by appointing yourself spokesperson for the entire neighborhood and complaining that you want local businesses to subsidize better free parking for you personally, you have done a tremendous job of demonstrating precisely the “complaining about every new business that opens in this corridor” behavior that I referenced in my first post. Thanks very much for providing an object lesson.

    • 1. There are other causes to the rise in property values, such as the effect of Katrina on supply and demand, low interest rates, safety, and the limited supply of historic properties. While there is an argument that convenience to commercial activity can be desirable and enhance property values, there is also a tipping point at which property values closer to commercial activity can be harmed.

      2. I suggest you go about the neighborhood and interview people to get their opinions on the parking situation. Maybe ask the restaurant owners, too, what they think. Cristiano told me that people don’t come to Martinique because there’s no place to park. At the meeting that was called to ostensibly talk about an alcohol permit, the only topic mentioned at length was parking. If you were there you would have witnessed that. It’s not me and why you accuse me of being the self appointed spokesman for the neighborhood is beyond me. I just responded to a post on an online news website. Maybe not too many people read it or they do but don’t comment. I speak for myself and my family, but I do speak to my neighbors and I’ve yet to find one that thinks adding a 100 seat restaurant would not impact the tenuous parking situation we are already experiencing. And yes, as a taxpayer I believe that I shouldn’t be inconvenienced by or have my property value diminished by the proliferation of commercial activity because the city choses to look away at the problem.

      3. You call me a complainer. You don’t even know me so what do you know of my history as it relates to the commercial activity in the neighborhood. Since you don’t know me and want to jump to conclusions here’s a quick rundown of where I stood on the more recent businesses (though I was not vocal in any of the neighborhood meetings): a) supported Whole Foods and even wrote a letter to the EVP in charge of new stores suggesting the bus barn would be a good site to move their tiny mid-city store before the bus barn went out for bid. Guess they thought so too. Also, supported the parking lot that was proposed behind the store, but the neighbors didn’t want that. Now it’s a mess. b) supported Walgreen’s move to Magazine. c) was concerned about Pita Pit being open until 2 am and parking, but didn’t think it was going to have a big impact (poor kid got blindsided at the ARNA meeting). d) would not have supported the predecessor to Bistro Daisy because there’s no parking, but somehow they got it approved without notifying the neighborhood. I blame Jay Batt for that, but he denies he had anything to do with it.

      So there, maybe you know me a little better now. I don’t think I’m a complainer. And if you had read my post I believe I said that I welcome Mani and Sean’s operation to the neighborhood. I wish them well and I intend to be a customer. To deny that there’s a parking issue is disingenuous. Perhaps you don’t have a financial stake in this development but clearly you must have a financial stake somewhere or perhaps you once found yourself on the receiving end of some of the real complainers (and there are plenty of them). I do have a substantial financial stake in the neighborhood and I wish to protect my investment. So be it.

      • binnola, while there certainly are constant complainers, I don’t mean to imply that you are one of them. As you correctly point out, I don’t know if you are or not. You *are* using a line of argument that is popular with the constant complainers on this topic.

        The bottom line is that you and I simply disagree about how far it’s reasonable to expect to walk after you park in a dense urban neighborhood next to a thriving commercial areas, and to what extent local business should be on the hook to replicate the ideal off-street parking conditions of two or three decades ago. In reality it doesn’t matter what either of us think, because those days aren’t coming back.

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