City orders end to nightclub activity at former Lower Garden District restaurant

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An image promoting the "Grand Opening of Latin Fridays" from the "Cafe Ra" Instagram stream, which advertises events at 1379 Annunciation Street. (via instagram.com/ra_nola)

An image promoting the “Grand Opening of Latin Fridays” from the “Cafe Ra” Instagram stream, which advertises events at 1379 Annunciation Street. (via instagram.com/ra_nola)

New Orleans police and city and state alcohol officials ordered a halt to nightclub activity operating in a former firehouse on Annunciation Street earlier this month, saying that “Club Ra” was issued a live entertainment permit in error but that its activities bore little resemblance to the restaurant its zoning allows.

The location, 1379 Annunciation Street, was most recently the highly-regarded Dijon restaurant until it closed down at the end of June 2014. Earlier this year, however, residents of the Lower Garden District began complaining to city and police officials about a new establishment called “Club Ra” at 1379 Annunciation Street, describing loud parties that begin well after dark and last long into the morning. In a meeting of the Coliseum Square Association in March, neighbors described a crowd of people around the club that filled up the former Robert’s parking lot nearby, and off-duty sheriff’s deputies allowing the club to shut down the street near it for valet parking.

A flyer for a Feb. 7 event at Club Ra featuring Pelicans star Tyreke Evans. (via Ra Nola on Facebook)

A flyer for a Feb. 7 event at Club Ra featuring Pelicans star Tyreke Evans. (via Ra Nola on Facebook)

On Monday evening (April 20), assistant city attorney Dan Macnamara and NOPD Sixth District Commander Ronnie Stevens appeared before the Coliseum Square Association and reported that, two weekends, ago, they partnered with the state Fire Marshal’s office and the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control to investigate the nightclub activity there. The site, they said, has a conditional use permit for a restaurant — not as the nightclub they observed.

“We discovered that Club Ra was operating not as a restaurant, but as two nightclubs, one in the front, one in the back,” Macnamara said.

An inspection of the premises turned up little food, Macnamara said, even as the establishment appeared to be preparing for a large crowd. Investigators found “a couple of boxes of French fries and a couple of boxes of chicken nuggets,” as well as eight eggs, he said.

“There was no restaurant activity taking place,” Macnamara said.

According to an inspection report dated April 11, the state Fire Marshal’s Office found problems with the emergency lighting systems, improperly bolted exits, and problems with the cooking equipment.

“Due to the extensive deficiencies noted within these kitchen premises, cease and desist all cooking operations until the above listed deficiencies have been corrected and a satisfactory inspection has been conducted,” the report orders. “Furthermore, capacity is hereby limited to 49 persons.”

A thus-far-unexplained problem that allowed the nightclub activity to persist as long as it did was that the business was issued a permit allowing live entertainment, even though the zoning specifically prohibits that, Macnamara said.

“They were inadvertently given – we’re still trying to figure out how – a live entertainment permit for that location,” Macnamara said. “By law, by statute, by ordinance, they are not allowed to have live entertainment.”

Neighbors asked about persistent allegations of “adult entertainment” at the location. Macnamara said there was no stripping taking place when the NOPD visited it for the investigation, but that such activity would have exceeded even the permit that Club Ra was improperly issued.

“I’ve been made aware of the fact that illegal live adult entertainment was taking place that location,” Macnamara said. “The fact that they were issued a live-entertainment permit does not mean they can operate adult entertainment.”

The state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control also issued a summons to the owners of the establishment for a hearing later in the summer, Macnamara said. The state liquor license is separate from the one issued by the city, but approval from both agencies is required for an establishment to serve alcohol. Macnamara said it would be inappropriate for him to discuss ahead of time what further steps the city attorney’s office would take against the establishment.

A phone call to a number associated with Club Ra’s social media activity Tuesday morning was answered by a man who said that there are “no charges” against the establishment, and that the hearing with the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control is simply to determine whether the alcohol sales exceeded food sales. When asked about the live entertainment at Club Ra, the man said he was too busy to discuss the issue, and hung up without identifying himself.

In theory, the building could still reopen in some capacity as described within the conditional use for a restaurant, city officials said. But if so, it would also have to operate within the parameters set by the fire marshal’s office, and would likely bear little resemblance to what neighbors saw earlier this year.

“If they do open up again, they don’t have those permits they can show to us anymore,” Stevens said.

At end of the presentation, Coliseum Square neighbors thanked Macnamara and Stevens for the response at the location. Macnamara acknowledged that their complaints about the building took several months to address, but said it took time to assemble the team of investigators necessary.

“While it might not have seemed as quick a response as some people would have liked, things were happening behind the scenes,” Macnamara said. “We’ve gone over there. We shut it down, and we don’t anticipate any future problems from them.”

An image from the "Cafe Ra" Instagram stream, which advertises events at 1379 Annunciation Street. (via instagram.com/ra_nola)

An image from the “Cafe Ra” Instagram stream, which advertises events at 1379 Annunciation Street. (via instagram.com/ra_nola)

An image from the "Cafe Ra" Instagram stream, which advertises events at 1379 Annunciation Street. (via instagram.com/ra_nola)

An image from the “Cafe Ra” Instagram stream, which advertises events at 1379 Annunciation Street. (via instagram.com/ra_nola)

[Note: This article was first published at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday, April 21, and updated at 3:12 p.m. when the State Fire Marshal’s report was obtained.]

4 thoughts on “City orders end to nightclub activity at former Lower Garden District restaurant

  1. It was the State ATF that finally put a stop to this illegal activity. The city was useless as usual but they are quick to try and take credit.

    Why the secret as to who issued a live music permit??

  2. It was a combination of the officers of NOPD (Cmdr. Stevens of 6th District), NOFD, S&P, State Fire Marshal, City Attorney’s Office (Dan MacNamara), and the state that worked in coordination to address the problems. Great thanks to Cmdr. Stevens and his officers and Dan MacNamara for their lead and working with other agencies to get this investigated and resolved. The hard-working members of CSA also did a fine job in documenting the problems and furnishing evidence.

  3. What is it about this particular building that brings the shadiest businesses? It’s been about 4-5 different things that I know of over the last decade and Dijon was about the only one that at least had the air of a reputable business.

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