NEW ORLEANS — It's the start of a new beginning for the historic Dew Drop Inn Hotel and Lounge in Central City.
A ground breaking ceremony held Thursday marked the start of its restoration.
It's a dream come true for Kenneth Jackson whose grandfather, Frank Painia, first opened the Dew Drop Inn in 1938. He was a barber on Lasalle Street until the building across the street become available.
"So, he saw an idea where he could cut hair on this side of the street and he started the bar business and it just blossomed," Jackson said.
Legendary musicians played on its stage including Ray Charles, Little Richard, Deacon John and Irma Thomas. Jackson remembers meeting Ray Charles when he was about 9-years old
"My grandfather actually brought Ray Charles to the house," Jackson said.
The venue was also a hotel, restaurant and barber shop.
"Enjoy the music, get your hair cut, have a good meal, and if you got too drunk you could go upstairs and go to sleep," Jackson laughed.
During a time of segregation, he remembers his grandfather allowing anyone of any race to come in.
"He actually got in trouble with the city for doing it," Jackson said. "They came here and arrested him and the patrons several times."
Jackson said his grandfather filed a lawsuit and won because it was during the Civil Rights Era.
The building has been crumbling. Jackson said several people were in the Dew Drop Inn hotel during Katrina and had to be rescued.
"The helicopters rescuing the people left here did more damage to the building than the hurricane did. With the down draft it just blew everything off," he said.
Now project developer Curtis Doucette Jr. plans to revive it into a 17 room boutique hotel and live music venue with a resort style pool.
"I'm a loss for words to come here and see all this going on and its actually taking place, really happening, it's amazing. I know my grandfather is smiling at us right now," Jackson said.
The venue is expected to reopen next year.