Uptown music venue fights neighborhood ban on liquor licenses

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 23 at 11:41 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS- At the corner of Willow and Dublin Streets, across from the streetcar barn, is a brick building that holds a lot of memories for many New Orleanians.

“This place was dear to a lot of people's hearts,” said Jimmy Anselmo, who originally opened Jimmy’s music club.

The venue first opened 35 years ago. But Anselmo rented the building to new tenants after Katrina, and The Frat House garnered a number of lawsuits and alcohol violations, and hasn’t operated since May.

Now, Anselmo has new renters who have been working to reopen the iconic music club for months. They applied for a liquor permit with the city in July.

“That's what we're trying to do again is revitalize this corner,” said Gary Quaintance, who is currently leasing the building.

But there's a problem. The Carrollton area falls under a two-year-old moratorium on new liquor licenses. That's why Jimmy's has yet to open.

“The city is stymieing business. They're stopping the music culture of New Orleans,” said Anselmo. “We're not able to book the bands we'd like to book here. We have Mardi Gras, we have Jazz Festival. They're hindering all of this.”

The moratorium is set to expire Feb. 4, and can't be renewed. But Councilwoman Susan Guidry trimmed the moratorium's boundaries by several blocks, and is hoping the City Council and the mayor will adopt it as a new law.

Anselmo's attorney believes that's illegal.

“After a two-year period they have to wait another year before they reimpose the same or substantially the same moratorium,” said attorney Mike Tifft.

There is a way to get a liquor permit in the area despite the moratorium. Businesses like Oak Bar and Tru Burger received a waiver to sell alcohol, but it took a series of neighborhood association meetings and about eight months to do so.

Tifft said his client does not have that much time.

“The remedy proposed by City Hall is that my client go to the city planning commission for a moratorium waiver, which is a lengthy and time consuming process. There's a $1,000 filing fee,” said Tifft.

The lengthy, costly process may discourage other businesses from opening in the area, but also ensures the businesses that do open are responsible, said Oak Bar owner Katie Winters. Still, Winters stressed her belief that the voices of those in the neighborhood associations should not carry more weight than the voices of other property owners in the area.

A manager at Tru Burger said she believed the moratorium process is a positive one that gives neighbors a voice in what type of business is opening in their community.

Guidry said that was her intent after speaking with residents and neighborhood associations.

"With ABO numbers second only to the French Quarter, the neighborhood has become overly saturated with bars to the exclusion of other potential new businesses. I believe that the new moratorium will slow this tide and help nurture a new slate of neighborhood-supported businesses and assist the Carrollton area's continued growth,” Guidry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Jimmy’s attorney plans to take the city to court if a new moratorium is passed.

“The city cannot stop Jimmy’s,” said Anselmo.

Our calls to members of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association members have not been returned. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the moratorium Thursday morning.

This story was developed with our partners at UptownMessenger.com.

 

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