New Orleans — Plans for a new music club on Frenchmen Street appear to be on life support after the City Planning Commission voted 6-0 Tuesday to deny a permit that would allow the business to open.
Commission staffers wrote in their report on the issue that the street already is oversaturated with live-music venues. Additionally, the proposed club, which would be at 516 Frenchmen St., is in excess of 4,000 square feet, more than is allowed by law.
Mainly, though, a new music club would contribute to an already large number of similar venues on Frenchmen Street between Esplanade Avenue and Royal Street, the commission and neighbors said.
The City Council in 2004 created what is known as an Arts and Cultural Overlay District that aimed to ensure the street maintained a mixed-use atmosphere by allowing no more than 20 percent of the businesses to be music clubs. Since then, however, an informal count of businesses on the street found about 38 percent are live-music venues, according to planning commission documents.
Applicant Penny Young has proposed renovating the former Laborde Printing Co. building into a club called Bamboula’s that would emphasize food and music.
But neighbors, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association and other businesses on the street said they oppose Young’s proposal since they fear that adding another music club will begin to deteriorate the atmosphere on Frenchmen Street, which has gained popularity in recent years.
“Since the overlay was enacted, the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Frenchmen Street have gone out of control to the point those blocks have become a continuous block party similar to Bourbon Street many nights of the week,” Marigny resident Rick Fifield wrote in a Dec. 17 letter to the Planning Commission.
“Approval of this waiver request will ensure that Frenchmen Street will become another Bourbon Street in the heart of a currently viable residential neighborhood,”
FMIA president Alexandre Vialou wrote to the Planning Commission that several existing businesses have expressed concern about a new live-music venue.
“It is the opinion of the FMIA that a more appropriate use can be found for this unique place ... such as a music store or a grocery store that would provide services to the community,” Vialou wrote in his Dec. 31 letter.
On Jan. 8, the Planning Commission voted to give Young and her business partners two weeks to come up with plans that might sit better with the neighborhood group.
Despite some modifications to the existing plan, such as renting out the second floor and reducing the number of stages that would be inside the building, the FMIA still opposed the concept.
City Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, in whose district the site sits, will have a final say on the matter during a future council meeting.