Last summer, in the midst of the pandemic, the team behind Cure opened a restaurant in a building many New Orleanians remember as a gas station and as the Freret Service Station. Vals, at Freret and Valence streets, serves Latin American food with a focus on Mexican flavors. It is the latest member of the CureCo family, which includes the nearby Cure and Cane & Table in the Quarter. Vals didn’t just come together over night. Owned by partners Neal Bodenheimer, Turk Dietrich, Matthew Kohnke and chef Alfredo Nogueira, the project was five years in the making.
There are few, if any, churches that have the treasures of St. Alphonsus, which opened in 1857 in the Lower Garden District. Once past its front doors, the church’s beauty — the ceiling frescos by Italian-born New Orleans artist Dominico Canova, the stained glass windows by German artist F.X. Zettler and the hand-carved walnut communion rail — are a revelation. But behind the pretty façade, there are problems.
The frescoes are damaged by water, noticeable by the wooden laths seen in the ceiling where a painted cherub could have been. The lead pieces that hold together the stained glass windows are disintegrating.
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.
A new restaurant and bar that aims to support the business community opened on 4525 Freret St. on Friday. A combination bar, restaurant and workspace, The Business Bar was already packed on opening night when it held a happy hour for entrepreneurs. Laughter and conversation bounced off the walls; some customers grooved in their seats to the R&B music playing overhead, while others mixed business and pleasure as they worked on their laptops while also clinking cocktails with names like “Old Fashioned Grind,” “Bloody Fresh Start” and “Break Even Expresso.”
The co-owners of the restaurant were putting in sweat equity as they rushed to keep up with the flood of customers on opening night. Jade Newman, 31, sprayed down tables and greeted customers while Jessica Robinson, 32, manned the bar.
In the Carrollton-Hollygrove neighborhood, the houses are especially colorful. The Carrollton-Hollygrove subkrewe’s theme is “Nesting in Place” — a nod to the neighborhood bird sanctuary that resident peacocks call home.
Courtney Bullock, one of the subkrewe’s co-captains explains how the Krewe of House Floats idea came together. “It all blew up in a week,” Bullock said. “There was a division of neighborhoods, and I knew that people would want to decorate their houses — we just had to do something.”
Bullock’s house, adorned with musical instruments and a piano banner, has a musical theme. “The title of my house float is ‘Lay That Funky Music,’” she said.
Just days after the a cyclist was killed in traffic on St. Charles Avenue, a “ghost bike” was placed at the site to honor his memory. There are a number of groups that make and place these ghost bikes (not to be confused with the Germany-based bicycle company of the same name) around New Orleans. This one was made by Angie Bailleux, who has been fabricating the bikes for going on five years. Bailleux said she does not know the victim.
Who even calls the stretch of greenspace overlooking the Mississippi River “Audubon Riverview Park”? But that is its official name. The current pavilion in the park everyone refers to as “The Fly” has a history dating back more than 25 years.
That structure, officially named “A Stage for Viewing,” was damaged in October’s Hurricane Zeta in October, and the process of replacing its shredded roof is still in play.
It’s this structure’s predecessor that gave the stretch of land by the river its name. Few today can remember the original building that people thought resembled a butterfly. So the park gained the nickname “The Butterfly,” which was then shortened to “The Fly.” The building, which housed concessions and restrooms, was actually supposed to resemble gull wings.
Behind the glittering offerings at Symmetry Jewelers lies a pandemic story despite how very busy they are and have been.
Like other non-essential businesses, Symmetry Jewelers closed down when it was mandated on March 22. They reopened a couple of months later, on the first day it was allowed. They bought masks for staff and customers alike, installed sanitizer stations and social-distancing markers, and developed a regimen for regular sterilizing. And like other local businesses, they had to register with the city to be permitted to open up. During those two lockdown months, the business took out a line of credit to pay employees while they applied for the Paycheck Protection Program.
Ride by the yellow corner building at Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas these days, and you see a line of people spread out on the sidewalk to order coffee at a to-go window. Yes, coffee. Since 1977, this has been the location of the iconic New Orleans’ music club, Tipitina’s. Originally intended to showcase the life’s work of Professor “Fess” Longhair, born Henry Roeland Byrd in 1918, at the end of his career, it quickly grew into one of the most beloved music venues in the city. It has survived changing ownership and changing musical climates, as well as hurricanes, over the years, even briefly closing in 1984.
This is the third Silver Lining, an Uptown Messenger series on locally owned small businesses that are thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. For almost five decades, Uptown Restoration has been repairing furniture at the corner of Zimpel and Cherokee streets in the University section of Uptown New Orleans.
Though off the beaten path, the repair shop does a steady business. But this year, it’s been especially busy. Not long after the lockdown in March, more customers began showing up with broken furniture and pieces that needed to be restored or refinished. “With everyone staying at home, and many working from home, they had the time to attend to repairs they had been meaning to do for a long time,” said Uptown Restoration proprietor Bobby Franks.
For a while, Franks had to rent storage space for the backlog of furniture in the queue to be worked on.