Beginning this fall, the legendary Dew Drop Inn in Central City is set to host live music for the first time in more than half a century. The city’s leading Black music venue for three mid-century decades, the club billed as “the swankiest spot in the South” holds a hallowed place in New Orleans cultural history and in rock ’n’ roll and rhythm-and-blues history. Lead developer Curtis Doucette Jr. told Uptown Messenger they are planning a mid-October opening for the music club. No word yet on the opening act, but he said he wants to bring back as many of the original Dew Drop musicians as he can. Of course, the Dew Drop community of musicians dates from the 1940s to 1970, so few remain on the scene.
Neutral Ground Coffee House owners Caroline “Phant” Williams and James Naylor were driving through the Carrollton neighborhood recently in their quest to find a new home for the city’s oldest coffeehouse and entertainment venue. They had decided Carrollton would good fit for the Neutral Ground, exiled since it lost its lease on its longtime Danneel Street space in April. At the corner of Oak and Adams, the partners noticed an empty, dilapidated commercial building. “There’s just something very attractive about this building,” Williams said. “So we stopped and were like, ‘Wow, wouldn’t this be a great spot!’”
After a Google search failed to turn up any information on the building, they dropped the idea.
A proposed open-air restaurant complex on the Freret Street corridor received a thumbs-down from the City Planning Commission on Tuesday (May 23)
The large vacant lot on Freret and Upperline Street is envisioned as Bohemia Gardens, an outdoor recreational space with a bar and three restaurants featuring up-and-coming chefs, the developer told the CPC. In its report, the Planning Commission staff objected to the project’s design, stating it did not fit the character of the neighborhood. “The historical development pattern of the Freret Street mixed-use corridor is what makes Freret a vibrant and walkable neighborhood,” the staff states. “The proposed design strategy drastically departs from the character of Freret Street in that current layout of the structures breaks the rhythm and fabric of the street by not providing building facades to the edge of the sidewalk.”
The CPC asked the developers and their architect to bring the building facades to the sidewalk and combine the small structures into one larger building to anchor the corner of Freret and Upperline. After meetings with the CPC staff, a redesign and three deferrals, the Bohemia group had not brought the plans into compliance.
Tulane University is asking the city for control over four city blocks adjacent to its Uptown campus. The proposal requests “long-term leases for site control and access” to the four Uptown blocks and one block near the downtown medical school. The request took University Area neighbors, already rankled by parking and traffic congestion in the area, by surprise. Tulane spokesman Michael Strecker told Uptown Messenger that the university just wants to fix and maintain the Uptown streets. “None of these areas would be closed to the public,” Strecker said in an email.
The City Council voted Thursday to allow the demolition of a century-old house in the Uptown historic district, while mandating that the owner retain or restore the façade. It was the fifth demolition request for 1230 Webster St. since 2019, after it was put on the market and eventually sold to an Alabama couple. Some requests were withdrawn, others denied. The Historic District Landmarks Commission has repeatedly opposed the demolition.
The City Council on Thursday (Sept. 23) approved a third-floor addition to a Garden District mansion owned by Sharonda Anderson, the mother of Pelicans star Zion Williamson. Anderson and architect John Williams had appealed the Historic District Landmarks Commission’s denial of their request to demolish 62% of the roof to add a screening room, workout room and guest bedroom to the 7,457-square-foot historic residence on First and Coliseum streets. The architects have since revised the design so that it’s less visible from the street, but the HDLC’s Eleanor Burke said the commission staff believes the addition would still undermine the architectural integrity of the building and the neighborhood and would set a precedent that could affect all of the city’s historic districts. The HDLC has partial control in the Garden District, giving it jurisdiction over demolitions and new construction only.
The City Planning Commission was especially enthusiastic over Docket 021/21 at this week’s meeting. “I want to thank you for making me cry at a CPC meeting,” said a smiling Commissioner Sue Mobley, seconding a motion to approve the developers’ request. After a round of enthusiastic “yeas,” Commissioner Kyle Wedberg said: “I’m very excited to make this unanimous.”
This unanimous vote was not for just any conditional use to permit a hotel with live entertainment in the LaSalle Street Overlay District, with nine provisos. It was for the Dew Drop Inn. The Dew Drop, the city’s leading Black music venue for three mid-century decades, holds a hallowed position in New Orleans cultural history, in rock ’n’ roll and rhythm-and-blues history, and in the hearts of many musicians.
The owner of Lilly’s Café, a popular Vietnamese restaurant in the Lower Garden District, is planning to open a second Lilly’s farther up Magazine Street. Lilly Vuong, who runs the 8-year-old restaurant with family members, told Garden District neighbors in a Neighborhood Participation Project letter that she recently purchased the cottage at 3329 Magazine St. to open a second Vietnamese restaurant. Before that can happen, she needs approval from the City Planning Commission and the City Council; a restaurant is only allowed as a conditional use in the district. A hearing is on the Planning Commission’s Jan.
Carrollton area resident Katie Smith told the City Council’s Street Renaming Commission in a presubmitted comment last week that she looked forward to the day she could give her cross street as Mahalia Jackson Street instead of Leonidas. That day now looks less likely. The commission voted Wednesday to remove Leonidas Street, as well as Lakeview’s Walker Street, from the list of names to be replaced. The City Council created the Street Renaming Commission in June to identify the streets and other public places in New Orleans that were named to honor white supremacists, and to recommend replacement street names.
Many of the streets that honor Confederate leaders were named in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as part of the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” propaganda campaign.
The Paradigm Gardens Plant Sale, held Sunday mornings in the shadow of the Pontchartrain Expressway in Central City, offers not just pots of herbs and tomatoes but a chance to enjoy an outdoor, socially distanced brunch and concert. The brunch on Sunday (Oct. 11) included food from Coquette restaurant and the vocal stylings of Robin Barnes. Plus, goats — all in a gorgeous garden. The sale of the plants and brunch items helps finance the Paradigm Gardens School — the only K-12 garden school in Louisiana.