Original Tujague’s neon sign will be duplicated, most likely won’t move to new location

(Photo: Collin Poellot | CC Flickr)
The Vieux Carre Commission last month issued a preliminary approval to install a duplicate of Tujague’s original neon sign at its new Decatur Street location.

At its May 19 meeting, the VCC reviewed a staff recommendation to “conceptually” designate the sign as a classic sign under the zoning ordinances if the sign is an exact match of the original located at 823 Decatur St.

The building’s owner, Kara Farms, filed the application in March after the Tujague’s moved to its new location at 429 Decatur St. and reopened last December, although the restaurant wasn’t allowed to take the original sign with him.

It’s not clear why Motwani won’t allow the restaurant to transfer the original sign, other than to say it’s “historic,” although he has indicated that he will keep it but remove the “Tujague’s” and the “Est. 1856” and use the sign for a possible new eatery, according to nola.com. A city application filed in March shows he wants to replace the original neon sign with a similarly-shaped “Cajun Bistro” sign.

Tujague’s first opened at 811 Decatur Street and later relocated to 823 Decatur St. in 1914. Established in 1856, the business holds a distinction as the “second oldest” restaurant in New Orleans (Antoine’s, located at 713 St. Louis St., holds the title as “first”).

Brothers Steven and Stanford Latter purchased the business in 1982. Steven died in February 2013 and Stanford sold the building to Motwani later that year, with Latter leasing the space back from Motwani.

Mark Latter, Steven Latter’s son and current Tujague’s owner, announced in October 2019 that the restaurant would not renew its lease with Motwani, who also owns the Willie’s Chicken Shack chain of restaurants.

The new restaurant held its last meal at the old location in the summer of 2020 and reopened at its current location shortly before the new year.

Along with sign, Tujague’s famed wooden bar did not make the transition to the 429 Decatur St. location. The bar was imported from a Parisian bistro in 1856 and was already believed to be nearly 100 years by the time by the time it was installed in its Decatur Street location.

William Reeves, a VCC commissioner, lamented over the absence of the sign at the restaurant’s new location.

“I ate at the new location and enjoyed it very much, but I was definitely uncomfortable because the old sign wasn’t outside,” Reeves said. “I wish we could get it.”

“That’s a difficult situation,” Latter said. “We would love to remove the old sign but that’s just not an option. Glad you enjoyed your dinner, though.”