METAIRIE, La. - Once known for late night bars, adult stores and crime, Fat City gained an unsavory reputation through the years. Now, locals and patrons are seeing what they say is a drastic change.
Leslee Miller used to come to Fat City during her more impressionable years, but now, instead of seeing strip clubs and bars...it's more sushi and burgers.
"I remember it kind of getting seedy and raunchy. But you look around and it's different," said Miller.
Tommy Cvitanovich will be opening Fire House Burgers in Fat City on Monday. He'll be capitalizing on the reputation of his family's other restaurant, Drago's, which has long been considered one of the anchor businesses for Fat City.
Cvitanovich owns large lots in the area and says he's happy to see less of the seedy. Several bars and adult entertainment clubs and shops have closed in the wake of a major overhaul of zoning rules and code enforcement in Fat City. Cvitanovich says he has no plans at the moment to develop the vacant stores and bars.
"It's definitely safer, it's definitely cleaner. I got four children and I never used to let them walk from the house to here, but now they can," said Cvitanovich.
Back in 2010, the Jefferson Parish Council approved rules banning adult entertainment and cracking down on late night clubs and bars in Fat City. Many of the workers and operators at those establishments saw it as heavy handed, but parish councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng the changes were necessary.
"The big change we did was reducing the hours of the bars. It was controversial we knew it was going to be litigated and I think that is the sole reason why you see many of the changes here today," said Lee-Sheng.
Even with fewer bars, strip clubs and adult shops, Cvitanovich and other business owners say more could be done to improve the area. They say a lack of parking and traffic flow are big issues. At Ohana, a sushi restaurant which opened in December, manager Amy O'Flynn she's noticed an influx of traffic of a different kind: families.
"Even though we have bars in the area, I see a lot more kids and a lot more families coming in," said O'Flynn.
It seems fitting that the name of the restaurant "Ohana" means family in Hawaiian culture. Since the zoning overhaul, Jefferson Parish has issued more than 30 new building permits for renovations. The various businesses and restaurants in Fat City would certainly welcome more entrepreneurs and foot traffic. Now, they just to have find the parking to accommodate.