Plan for late-night “Salsa and Tapas” draws support of neighbors, if no zoning change is required

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Mayas Restaurant on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District will have the support of its neighbors for a plan to add live music, dancing and to stay open later for “Salsa and Tapas” — if the changes can be accomplished without a zoning change, members of the Coliseum Square Association decided Monday evening.

The restaurant hopes to combine small plates of Latin American fare with live, unamplified music on Friday and Saturday nights, but the plan requires a change to the establishment’s current operating conditions imposed by the city. Restaurant owner Trinity Cazzola presented his plan to the Coliseum Square Association last month, and an informal survey taken by a board member showed only one immediate neighbor strongly opposed to the plan.

“Really, Trinity, you’ve been an asset to the neighborhood, and we take that seriously,” said association president Robert Wolf.

A different complication emerged Monday night, however. Just before the meeting, another board member received an email from City Councilwoman Stacy Head’s office that said the city’s Department of Safety and Permits had decided live music was absolutely prohibited from establishments with Mayas’ zoning. Because of the third-party nature of the communication, however, board members were uncertain about the details of that decision, such as whether it applied to Mayas now, or under the proposed revisions to the city’s zoning laws.

Mayas has been an excellent neighbor, many neighbors among the group of 20 or so at the meeting repeatedly said, and they were inclined to allow Cazzola to give his plan a try. But if a zoning change is needed, that opens the door to all sorts of development at that location by subsequent, less responsible property owners, they said, and that spot zoning could create a “slippery slope” that led to a crowded atmosphere similar to Frenchman Street.

“I would be in favor of showing support for him if it’s an allowable or conditional use,” said association secretary Karon Reese. “If it’s not, it’s a moot point. I don’t think we’re trying to arm-wrestle them on it.”

By a 10-2 vote, the association decided to support Mayas if their plan can be accomplished within the building’s current zoning, with the stipulation that they would not support a zoning change.

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Among the other issues discussed Monday night, Kathy Falwell told the association that she is concerned that tentative New Orleans Recreation Department plans to convert part of Annunciation Park into a dog park will displace the hundreds of people that use the area for soccer and picnics on the weekend. Further, the plan will require generally unseemly changes such as a tall fence and some sort of sawdust-type surface — the current, more laissez-faire use of the park by dog owners is a better use of the space, she said.

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