Morning Call’s return to French Quarter is not definite, owner says

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER --  Plans for Morning Call to return to the French Quarter and be housed in a planned building on Conti Street between Decatur and South Peters streets are less definite than originally billed, but still may come together, the beignet stand's owner said Monday, May 20, 2013. The red building would be demolished under the plan. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Plans for Morning Call to return to the French Quarter and be housed in a planned building on Conti Street between Decatur and South Peters streets are less definite than originally billed, but still may come together, the beignet stand's owner said Monday, May 20, 2013. The red building would be demolished under the plan.

Morning Call’s return close, but not yet a done deal

“We’d love to be back in the Quarter, where we started. We don’t want to sell a franchise to any Joe off the street.” Bob Hennessy, Morning Call vice president

Plans for Morning Call to reopen in a new location near its old French Quarter digs are less settled than they first appeared, but still may come together, the business’ owner said Monday.

The Vieux Carré Commission and one of its committees recently heard pitches for a new building to be constructed on Conti Street between Decatur and South Peters streets. Each presentation showed the proposed structure housing a Morning Call, seeming to herald the venerable 24-hour beignet stand’s return to its original neighborhood after an absence of more than four decades.

But Bob Hennessy, Morning Call’s vice president, said a deal with a potential franchisee to operate a store at the proposed location fell apart before it could be finalized. After those discussions collapsed, he said, the site’s developer listed the potential building as being for lease.

Earlier this month, Sydney Anderson Realty listed the proposed structure as being available for lease with a note that its zoning allows for the building to house a “restaurant, night club, live entertainment, a retail shop or general commercial use.”

Hennessy said he is still interested in seeing Morning Call located at that site. But now he must decide whether he would operate the store himself, or seek another franchisee.

“We’d love to be back in the Quarter, where we started,” Hennessy said. “We don’t want to sell a franchise to any Joe off the street.”

The Vieux Carre Commission last month gave conceptual approval to the plan that would allow the structure to be built.

Plans call for demolishing an existing service station and replacing it with a two-story building with a rooftop terrace that would seat 230 customers on the two floors and the roof.

The VCC, however, had some concerns about how the building would fit in the historic neighborhood since its design is essentially a glass cube that would allow it to be an open-air building.

Commission Chairman Ralph Lupin during that meeting described the proposed structure as a “relatively modern building” that would go up in an “important” part of the Quarter.

He also said he had concerns about the crowds that could potentially grow in the area if Morning Call is allowed to operate there, citing Café Du Monde and its crowds as an example of what could happen.

Ultimately, though, since the VCC voted to conceptually approve the project, additional design details must still be worked out before the commission will approve the final plans.

The project’s latest status was not immediately available. A call to the developer was not returned.

If the new structure is eventually built and Morning Call becomes the tenant, it would be the beignet and coffee shop’s third location in the metro area, a short distance from its original home.

Morning Call opened in 1870. It remained on Decatur Street in the French Market, not too far from rival Café Du Monde, until it moved to a Metairie strip mall in 1974.

A second location opened earlier this year in the Casino building in City Park.

Hennessy said that he hopes to open more Morning Call locations not just in the metro area but across the country and around the globe.

“I think Morning Call could do well all over,” he said, noting that Café Du Monde has a location in Japan. “It’s such a good business, and with a good business plan it could do well in the U.S. and worldwide if we can … get the right people.”