Behind a facade of construction barriers and fencing at the former Brennan’s Restaurant, a new future is taking shape at what had been one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans.
At the same time, some lingering issues from the restaurant’s recent troubles are making their own bid for attention.
This week, a group of creditors took legal action to try to force the building’s former occupant, Brennan’s Inc., into bankruptcy. Creditors Sysco New Orleans LLC, Dorignac’s Food Center LLC and G.H. Leidenheimer Baking Co. Ltd. are seeking to liquidate the restaurant company to collect on claims of nearly $60,000.
Sysco, which provided food and other goods to Brennan’s, asserts the restaurant company owes it $49,307, according to the petition. Leidenheimer is owed $4,480, the bread maker said. Dorignac’s, which provided Brennan’s with spirits, has filed a claim for $4,778.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to oversee the liquidation of a firm’s assets, which are distributed to creditors. Under bankruptcy law, Brennan’s has 20 days to respond to the filing.
The push for a bankruptcy comes as Brennan’s Inc., the entity that owns the now-closed Brennan’s restaurant, is hoping a federal judge will reinstate its ownership of the Royal Street building that housed the restaurant, allowing the company to return.
Meanwhile, the new owners of that building, at 417 Royal St., are proceeding with a plan to turn it into a new restaurant.
Brennan’s restaurant was evicted from its longtime home in the familiar pink building on June 27 about a month after the building sold for $6.85 million in a foreclosure auction to Leggo/4. That investment group, which includes businessman Terry White and Ralph Brennan, a restaurant owner who is related to the Brennan’s operators but previously had no role in the restaurant, intends to open another restaurant at the site.
Specific plans for that new restaurant, including its name, are still under development, according to a Ralph Brennan spokeswoman, but renovations to the historic structure are progressing and the new venture is expected to open early this spring.
The building at 417 Royal St. dates back to 1795. Through its history, it was used as a residence, a bank and an events hall before first opening as Brennan’s Restaurant in 1955.
“Breakfast at Brennan’s,” a lavish morning meal often accompanied by wine and cocktails, helped propel its fame, and for many years the restaurant was a fixture of the Creole culinary scene. In its configuration before closing last summer, the restaurant had 12 dining rooms and a large patio with a total capacity of 550 people.
Different branches of the Brennan family suffered a fractious split in the early 1970s, however, with one side associated with Brennan’s Restaurant and the other going on to open many other restaurants around New Orleans and in other cities through the years.
Ralph Brennan grew up in that latter side of the family and worked at Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s Bistro before forming his own restaurant group, which now operates five properties in New Orleans, one at Disneyland and a local catering operation.
Meanwhile, Brennan’s restaurant owner Pip Brennan, a cousin of Ralph Brennan, is asking a federal court judge to overturn the foreclosure sale that led to his restaurant’s eviction. Pip’s son Clark Brennan said Tuesday that his family is awaiting the outcome of that request but is also considering a future for their restaurant in a different location.
“That’s absolutely something we’re looking at, though we’ll know more once the smoke clears in court,” Clark Brennan said.