French Quarter's Westin Hotel completes $30 million makeover

Observatory Eleven at sunset. Courtesy of The Westin New Orleans.

A French Quarter upscale hotel wants you to know that it has a new look.

On Thursday, The Westin New Orleans announced that it completed an expansive, and expensive, revitalization effort that spanned the entire hotel.

The $30 million dollar redesign added a total of 30,000 square feet across 18 rooms on the property.

Hotel developers worked with Canadian firm Moncur Design Associates, which incorporated some of the local aesthetic to include the city’s history, culture, architecture and natural elements like southern oaks with hanging moss.

Three new additions include a new bar restaurant and ballroom.

All three — Observatory Eleven, Bistro at the Bend and Riverbend Ballroom — are all located on the 11th floor of the hotel and overlook the Mississippi River.

Observatory Eleven is a circular bar and includes approximately 2,3000 square feet of space. Dan Levy runs the drinks program at the bar.

Chef Daniel Mills, formerly of The Roosevelt New Orleans hotel, runs Bistro at the Bend. Some of his signature dishes include blue crab beignets, Gulf Coast au gratin, blackened scallops and pimento cheese arancini. The restaurant seats 104 people.

The ballroom is 4,200 square feet and holds 280 people.

The hotel, which rises to 19 floors and includes 462 rooms, is located at 100 Iberville Street near Canal Place.

The Westin is a hotel chain owned by Marriott International, which is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland.

Earl Bernhardt, Tropical Isle co-founder, dies at 80

Earl Bernhardt, co-founder of the iconic Tropical Isle bar and the Hand Grenade drink, reportedly died on Dec. 5. He was 80 years old.

Bernhardt, along with his business partner Pam Fortner, founded the Tropical Isle bar after the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition and its melon-flavored signature cocktail served in an elongated neon green container shaped.

Shaped like a hand grenade at the bottom, cups are often seen strewn along Bourbon Street on a daily basis and have become an essential part of French Quarter scenery.

The drink comes in two varieties: frozen or with ice.

The bar expanded to five locations on Bourbon Street and has been a French Quarter mainstay for decades.

Longtime Tropical Isle employees praise Bernhardt for his generosity and treating them like family despite running a high-volume business with stressful hours.

His reputation extended to the local music community as his venues hosted many popular bands and musicians over the years.

Bernhardt was also known for his flashy dress. During visits to the bar, Bernhardt was occasionally seen wearing a solid gold chain with a Hand Grenade medallion around his neck.

Bernhardt was originally from Jackson, Mississippi. A cause of death was not disclosed.

A second line celebration of life parade was held for Bernhardt on Monday, Dec. 16.

NOPD: Suspects distracted Bourbon Street bartender, then stole cash

Courtesy of NOPD.

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) said two men are wanted after one allegedly distracted a bartender in the 800 block of Bourbon St., while the other grabbed cash from a bank bag on September 8.

The incident happened at about 5:30 a.m., according to the NOPD, adding that the suspects left the bar in an unknown direction.

The NOPD released a surveillance camera still photo allegedly showing the suspects, which is pictured above.

Anyone with information on the identity and whereabouts of the two men are asked to contact NOPD Eighth District detectives at 504-658-6080. Anonymous callers can call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111 or toll-free at 877-903-7867.

GrandPre’s to host Stormy Daniels for LGBT Community Center benefit on August 1

Stormy Daniels at the 2010 Adult Entertainment Expo. Photo by flipchip | Wikimedia Commons

Porn star Stormy Daniels will visit GrandPre’s at 834 N. Rampart St. for a party on August 1 to help raise money for the New Orleans LGBT Community Center.

Titled “A MidSummer Night’s Cream,” the event will include an evening of “sparkly drink specials,” go-go dancers, and a “Most Fabulous Fairie” costume contest with prizes and $1,500 in cash. The contest will be judged by Daniels, Lewis St. Louis, and a surprise celebrity.

Additionally, there will be a silent auction, raffle, and Gentilly Snow will be serving food with a portion of the sales being donated to the LGBT Community Center.

Daniels—AKA Stephanie Clifford, a Baton Rouge native—was embroiled in a sex scandal involving President Donald Trump, who reportedly paid $130,000 via his personal (now imprisoned) attorney Michael Cohen in hush money before the 2016 presidential election to cover up an alleged affair with Daniels.

The benefit, which runs from 9 to 11 p.m., is organized by Daniels’ own Swamp Trash Events. Tickets range from $20 to $100 and can be purchased in advance at Big Daddy’s and GrandPre. There isn’t a fee to enter the costume contest but contestants must sign up before 10 p.m.

Where to watch a Creepy Fest 2019 show in the French Quarter

The Pallbearers at The AllWays Lounge and Theater in 2013. Photo by Dave Minsky.

New Orleans spawned its own punk rock scene that has persisted for at least four decades. It doesn’t appear to be letting up as Creepy Fest 2019 returns from July 17 to 21 with dozens of bands performing at several venues across the city.

Now in its 11th year, the festival includes two French Quarter venues: Santos Bar and Checkpoint Charlies.

Creepy Fest has its roots in cinema. According to Antigravity, Creepy Fest began as a film showing for Creepy Dean, a film produced by local Terror Optics studios that had a soundtrack featuring songs from more than a dozen bands. The showings were just a CD release to promote the bands and it morphed into the punk festival it is today, organizer Bill Heintz told Antigravity in 2013. Heintz, a graphic designer by trade, has performed as a drummer with several Creepy Fest bands, including The Pallbearers.

The five-day festival begins at 6:00 p.m. at Portside Lounge with a special appearance by horror movie scream queen Geretta Rosemary Geretta. Check here for a full list of Creepy Fest shows and venues.

The festival creeps into the Quarter starting in the downstairs venue at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 19 venue at Santos Bar at 1135 Decatur St. with Trampoline Team, followed by Marty Feldman’s Eyes, Die Rotzz, Fat Stupid Ugly People, The Pallbearers, Vomit Spots, and Submachine.

Upstairs bands at Santos start playing at 9:15 p.m. and feature Pawn of the Jungle, Lauren Jean’s No Man Band, Trash Night, and Red Poison Berry. Doors open at 7 p.m. and entry is $15.

Checkpoint Charlies at 501 Esplanade Ave. and Santos will host bands on Saturday, July 20.

All live shows at Checkpoint Charlies are free on Saturday. Bands begin performing at 8:30 p.m. and feature Dead Centered, Pussy Rot, Reagan Era Rejects, The KBK, The Cops, Killer Hearts, and Before I Hang.

Santos hosts an earlier show with $7 admission and featuring Witchcake, The NoShows, Future Hate, Joystick, and Franks and Deans.