May monthly meeting minutes

CRNA Monthly Meeting – Minutes

May 14, 2009

 Attending—Board:  Marilyn Barbera, Pax Bobrow,  Betty DiMarco, Rudolf Garrison, Tilman Hardy, Marshall Hevron, Gary Smith, Jerry Speir, and Betsy Weymann

Absent Board Members:  Kevin Brown, Gordon Cagnolatti, Todd Leavitt, Judith Miranti, Julianna Padgett, Amanda Smithson, Llewelyn Soniat, and Jim Stratton                                   

Residents/Guests:  Brian Adams, Buddy Adams, Jeff Baker, Cara Beal, Larel Brashears, Joseph Cerise, Kevin Delaney, Lee Downs, Ralph Driscoll, Mary DeWitt Dukes, Rick Fifield, Amberly Fox, Kristy Gonzales, Kawann Harris, Cecilia Holzenthal, Danny Keiffer, Joseph Kane, Amelia Leonardi, Jacques Leonardi, Danny Martin, Phil McLeod, Cindy Morse, Marilyn Neumann, Stephen Novak, Charlene Quinlan, Tommy Quinlan, Kevin Rung, Flo Snow, Jill Stephens, Joseph Voltz, Charlene Walvoord, Katie Winters, Patrick Winters

 

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The majority of the meeting was taken up with a consideration of a proposed wine bar at the corner of Oak and Dante, in the space most recently occupied by the White Pillars Emporium.  

The developer, Katie Winters, her partner and architect, attended to answer questions. 

Jerry Speir explained that the meeting was prompted by the existence of a moratorium on new alcohol licenses in Carrollton, which was passed by the City Council at the urging of neighborhood associations—led by the Maple Area Residents, Inc (MARI) organization.  CRNA supported the moratorium.  The political/legal consequence of the moratorium is that an applicant for a new license must appeal the moratorium, which requires action by the City Council—and our present Councilwoman seeks the input of the neighborhood association on these issues.  The moratorium has a term of one year, with the possibility of extension for a second year at the Council’s discretion. 

Because she is still in the phase of negotiating the purchase of the property, Ms. Winters has not gotten to the point of creating drawings for the property or of negotiating with the city about parking details and the like.  But she offered the following information: 

The building, as is, occupies 12,000 square feet of space.  Some of that is in a shed at the rear of the building that she expects to tear down, because it does not conform to building codes.  Some of the space is in essentially un-useable, low-ceilinged upstairs areas.  Some would be rented out to a tenant.  (As you face the building, there are three sections; the right-hand, upriver third would be partitioned off and rented.  The yoga studio already on Oak has expressed interest because their present space is too small.)  Some of the building, in the area of the attached warehouse/garage would be converted to off-street parking—the precise number of spaces and the traffic flow in-and-out to be determined. 

That would leave a projected 1800-2000 square feet for the wine bar and amenities, plus an outdoor patio on Oak that she expects to be about 1000 square feet. 

She seeks to attract an upscale clientele, anticipates opening at 4 p.m., and contemplates closing at 2 a.m., at least on weekends. The establishment would have a limited food menu—which she described as “girly food”—tapas, salads, cheeses, etc.  She would like to have music, of a piano bar sort, and expressed a willingness to limit the hours of such entertainment.  

She believes that she can provide sufficient parking on-site so that the project will not need a parking variance from the city.  

She expects to comply with historic restoration guidelines, re: the façade of the building, sufficient to qualify for state tax credits. 

Questions raised included: 

–Given the size of the property, how can we be sure the bar won’t expand over time?

–If the business does not succeed, what might the property become under a future owner?

–How will garbage be handled?

–How will deliveries be handled?

–Would she consider opening another type of business in the space?

–Would she expect to put tables on the sidewalk?

–What experience does she have running such a business?  What evidence does she have that it will succeed?

–Who will operate/manage the business? 

She expressed a willingness to sign an agreement with CRNA, similar to those that we have signed with Saltwater Grill and the Jazmine Café (which would be filed in the public conveyance records and give CRNA a right to sue for enforcement) that could address limitations on such things as space devoted to the bar, garbage, deliveries, and sidewalk tables—in addition to such issues as noise, parking, hours of operation, video poker (which she does not seek), signage, and the like.  The agreement would also state that the alcohol license and exemption from the current moratorium on liquor licenses would not transfer with the property, should she decide to sell it. 

She has no interest in pursuing a different type of business at the location.  She believes that the business will succeed based on the success of similar establishments (the Delachaise on St. Charles and Cure on Freret were mentioned)—and based on the fact that she and her partners expect to be able to start up the business without a substantial debt load.  She would be the managing partner, though an on-site manager would be hired.  She noted that, though she has not operated a business of this sort, she has managed several real estate renovations—houses and a commercial building in the French Quarter—and she directed attendees to New Orleans Magazine for a feature on one of her houses as an example of the quality she expects to put into the building.  She is also a successful attorney with a major local law firm. 

As to the scenario of the business failing and a different bar (or other operation) succeeding it, it was noted that the agreements that CRNA has with Saltwater Grill and Jazmine Café are significantly different.  Those agreements are about trying to ensure that restaurants do not become bars and, because of the different zoning in the Riverbend, there is a “conditional use” at issue in those locations, which provides additional leverage for the neighborhood association.

 But it was also noted that, once the moratorium on new alcohol licenses expires, the neighborhood association will have no input at all on the alcohol license issue or on what sort of other business might occupy the space (unless there is a parking variance issue). Some observed that, in the present instance, we at least have a developer who is cooperative. 

Ms. Winters promised to get back to us with further details as soon as her arrangements for acquiring the property are finalized. 

In other matters:  Cindy Morse announced that Johnson Elementary School is planning a Water Quality Exhibit Day involving 4thgraders.  Time, place and details to follow. 

Frat House bar—Several neighbors who live in proximity to the Frat House bar at Willow and Dublin expressed serious concerns about numerous incidents involving noise, vandalism and other inappropriate late-night behavior in the vicinity of the bar.  It was recommended that a group of neighbors meet with the bar owner to discuss the issues, and such a meeting is being organized.

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