Planning commission approves extra hours for proposed wine shop on Decatur Street

The New Orleans City Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved additional hours of operation for wine shop slated to open on Decatur Street.

In a 6-0 vote, the commission approved the wine shop that will be located at 1118 Decatur St. to operate an additional hour later, or until 10 p.m., on weekdays from Sunday through Wednesday, while allowing it to stay open until midnight on the weekend from Thursday through Saturday.

The hours extension came with an application filed by property owner K&F Realty LLC to permit the wine shop on the ground floor, which was also approved. CPC staff recommended approval for the applications.

“In this particular area, the closing at 9 p.m. during the week and then closing at 10 p.m. during the weekends does not meet whatsoever the commercial ground floor character,” said Nicole Webre of Webre Consulting on behalf of K&F Realty, adding that nearby businesses have given their blessing for the hours extension. “It allows the flexibility for onsite and offsite consumption.”

The wine would operate with a store front at the Decatur Street location and on the other side of the block at 23-25 French Market Place.

Two speakers opposed the hours extension, including Nikki Szalwinski of the French Quarter Citizens and Erin Holmes of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, who said the extension would allow the wine shop to operate as more of a bar than a retail store due to the onsite consumption.

“We do not agree that the extension of hours are necessary for a successful business,” Holmes said, adding that conditional uses remain in perpetuity, allowing a future business to use the modification to open a bar. “While Decatur certainly does need increased economic vitality, the presence of another bar-like establishment isn’t necessary.”

Szalwinski agreed with Holmes, adding that it could set a precedent similar to the way other stores operate in the French Quarter, such as Compaq, which she described as a “really bad business.”

Webre said that it was a fair request since other restaurants in the district don’t have a set closing time, adding the additional hours fall in line with restaurants outside of the French Quarter, although Szalwinski said she’d like to see a set closing time applied to restaurants in the area.

“We are not asking for an unlimited extension on the hours of operation, but in this particular area, if you are down there in the evening, to close at 9 p.m. would basically cause the business to fail.”

CPC staff noted that there’s a written restriction that limits wine consumption to only 15% of the business, whereas the primary aspect of the operation is retail in order to address concerns that it may be used as a bar in the future.

“If we were going for a bar conditional use, why would we go for a wine shop conditional use?” said Webre, who pointed out that bars are already a conditional use in the Vieux Carre Services District.