City Council amends French Market zoning restrictions to expand hours, include pedestrian-friendly signage

(Photo: The French Market | Richard Martin | CC Flickr)
A motion amending French Market zoning restrictions was passed Thursday by New Orleans City Council members, which extended merchant hours and made changes to sign use, including adding a new set of pedestrian-friendly signs as part of a package of provisions intended to expand use of the location.

The motion established the French Market Overlay District and was passed unanimously, 7-0, expanding the flea and farmers markets to allow seafood and produce vendors to open as early as 4 a.m. and allow vendors to stay open as late as 10 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Indoor and outdoor live entertainment, however, ends at 8 p.m. each day at the French Market itself, although this restriction doesn’t apply to nearby venues, according to District C Councilmember Kristen Gisleson Palmer, who introduced the motion that recognizes the “unique geographic configuration” of the French Market District as a separate entity within the French Quarter.

“I would also like to emphasize that this restriction is for venues directly within the public market and would have no impact the operations of venues that are in the immediate vicinity but independent of the market,” said Palmer, citing B.B. King’s Blue’s Club as an example.

In addition, the motion allows a unified package of pedestrian-scale signage, permits freestanding multi-tenant monument signs and multi-tenant monument signs identifying individual tenant space within the breezeway between buildings at St. Ann, Dumaine, St. Philip and Governor Nicholls streets in lieu of the freestanding signs.

There was no public comment on the motion, which was passed during City Council’s first in-person meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Speaking at the meeting, City Planning Commissioner Paul Cramer said an analysis found that the zoning modifications will allow more opportunities for activating French Market space and improve wayfinding experiences through the area.

The district encompasses the area generally bounded by the riverside of Decatur Street, the downriver side of St. Peter Street and its direct extension to the Mississippi River, the Mississippi River and the upriver side of Barracks Street and its direct extension to the river.

Planning commission staff consulted with the Vieux Carre Commission, which found no objections to the proposed overlay and the modified language and recommended approval of the zoning changes, according to Cramer.