Frenchmen St. businesses upset at lack of rules enforcement


Posted on June 25, 2014 at 10:47 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 25 at 10:51 PM

Eric Paulsen / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- There is nothing more New Orleans than a brass band. It is something you expect to see in this city, especially on a street like Frenchmen in the Marigny.

But some people who live and work here are saying too much of a good thing is just that, too much.

“It's like having a football band in your front yard every night for three to four hours,” said artist James Michalopoulos.

Michalopoulos has lived just off Frenchmen Street for more than two decades. He said all of his neighbors have left because there is just too much noise.

He's quick to say he's not against brass bands. They are part of the fabric of this city. He just said they're now too loud and play too long, often times past midnight.

“Everybody has (called the cops), many, many times,” he said. “I'm not sure exactly what happens, but the music doesn't stop, or occasionally it will stop after a certain amount of time, and there are no citations, as far as I know, ever given.”

Next door to Michalopoulos' house is a place called Brazil Taco Truck, and the owner here has had several run-ins with some bands who play in front of his place.

“Now the brass band can come, they can play,” said Reubens Leite, owner of the Brazil Taco Truck. “They leave all the garbage outside. They smoke marijuana outside my place. Last day I asked them, no, please don't smoke marijuana in front of my door. They start to pee at my door in public. Ain’t nobody do nothing.”

And that's not the only problem. Frenchmen Street has changed over the past few years. It used to be a cool place that locals would go to, but now it's become a tourist hotspot and a lot more rowdy.

Jan Ramsey, publisher of Offbeat Magazine, who is president of The Frenchmen Marigny Triangle Business Association, said she has been trying to work with the brass bands, who she says are an important part of the street.

But there have to be some rules and regulations, and right now there don't seem to be many.

“It’s become sort of like the wild, wild west, and it hasn’t been like that up until recently,” Ramsey said.

Aside from the brass bands, there's been an increase in illegal street vendors, people selling nitrous oxide balloons and vans on the street people call the marijuana trucks.

“It’s just lawlessness out here really,” said Daniel Esses. “At night the police leave, they don't come back, and people do whatever the hell they want on this street.”

Esses, who owns Three Muses on Frenchmen Street, said he's worried about what’s happening on his street and the lack of police presence.

Ramsey said police did crack down on the sale of nitrous oxide, but she has concerns about less police presence. She said businesses here are not happy about what they call the marijuana trucks.

“Everybody on Frenchmen Street is upset about them,” she said. “Any business owner can go out there and tell the people in the truck to move on, and the guy in the truck will say ‘make me.’”

The trucks are not new here. They have popped up in a number of cities around the country. Weed World Candy Trucks sell marijuana-flavored lollipops and other candies. They contain hemp, but according to the founder, nothing to make people high.

And while the company behind the lollipops is very open the people with the New Orleans truck were not very happy when our camera was taping them, which has some business owners wondering if there's more to the story.

“They pretend to sell lollipops. I don't know what kind of lollipop,” Leite said. “But if you want to buy special lollipops, they have a little window. You buy from the window. I don’t know what (it) is.”

What he and other business owners say they want is more enforcement of the rules, whether it's street vendors or the various brass bands that play here.

“They have to play fair with the businesses. We have to understand that it’s part of New Orleans, and we have to work together,” Esses said. “And there's no cohesive synergy with us. With the city, with the brass bands, with the businesses, day and night businesses, we are just not on the same page.”

And while most businesses complain about a lack of police presence, the owner of Brazil Taco said the cops did come out early one evening last week when some of his customers were celebrating a win at the World Cup.

“We was commemorating when Brazil won the game. In a few minutes, the police come, shut us down, told us you cannot have music,” Leite said. “Soon they shut us down. We stop the music, and the brass band starts playing until 11:30 p.m.

Leite claims it seems quite ironic that his music was loud enough for the police to shut him down at 7:30 p.m., but not the brass bands, no matter how loudly they play, even after midnight.

All he said is that there needs to be an even playing field.

An NOPD spokesperson said he had no record of the cops shutting down the music at Brazil Taco last week, but added that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

As far as police presence on frenchman, he said the number of officers available is lower than last year, but said the NOPD does not make public the exact numbers.