City Council overturns VCC, approves gallery on Bourbon Street building

The New Orleans City Council earlier this month approved an appeal by a Bourbon Street bar to install a gallery along the second floor, overturning the decision by the Vieux Carre Commission denying the application.

At their Nov. 17 meeting, City Council members voted 5-1 to approve the motion granting the appeal to Fat Catz Music Club, allowing the business to proceed with constructing a gallery on the second floor of the building located at 440 Bourbon Street.

Lesli D. Harris, District B councilmember, voted against the motion, which was put forth by District C Councilmember Freddie King, who represents the French Quarter.

“This building’s located in the Vieux Carre entertainment district, the French Quarter’s most intensive zoning district, which is more permissive around everything from lighting to signage,” King said. “The VCC guidelines are just that — guidelines, not requirements.”

Nathan Chapman, president of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, which advocates for preserving French Quarter buildings, said he was shocked that the City Council voted to allow the “inappropriate alteration of the building.

“The public’s concerns went beyond the fact that the City Council voted to obscure and obliterate a rare architectural feature – its entresol floor – on the building,” Chapman said. “There was also strong objection that the applicant never submitted architectural plans to the VCC, like citizens and other businesses are required to do. Instead, they turned in an architectural sketch. That alone should have merited a denial to the proposal.”

Advocates who spoke during public comment at the meeting said that the ceiling on the second floor is too low to install a gallery and that the addition would be “anachronistic,” meaning it would not have been a feature of the building during the time it was built.

A VCC spokesman added that the proposed gallery failed all four criteria of the commission’s guidelines that would allow the addition.

The building’s second level feature is an entresol, or an intermediate mezzanine structure designed to extend the height of the first floor and which gives the building a unique architectural look that’s not typically found outside the French Quarter, advocates say.

VCPORA’s Erin Holmes said only 18 such features exist within the French Quarter, adding that no plans were submitted specifying how people could access the gallery.

Holmes noted that the property owners are also appealing a deferral by the VCC to add two stories to a portion of the building that’s rated brown, a category that holds the least historical value. The facade of the building is rated green, which indicates local historical significance, according to VCC guidelines.

James Rolf, identified as a VCPORA member and preservation consultant, said the addition is “mocking our own culture.”

“New Orleans is often the example throughout the country of how to properly restore a historic building,” Rolf said at the meeting. “We’re creating more of a film set than the authentic culture that we are.”

A woman speaking on behalf of the property told councilmembers that the gallery would improve the property, saying it’s the “least attractive” building on Bourbon Street.

In addition, architect Ralph Long said the gallery would would serve as a buffer to protect pedestrians from sun and rain, compliment the intersection and improve the appearance of the building.

King agreed, adding that every adjacent building also features a second floor gallery, which would create a positive economic impact for Bourbon Street — which he noted is an important source of tax revenue for the city.

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 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.”

5G light pole exhibits planned in the French Quarter

Public exhibits of proposed 5g cell phone tower designs that look like light poles will be held in various parts of the French Quarter on Wednesday and Thursday.

The exhibits will be held Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. near 816 N. Rampart St. and Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. near the corner of Chartres and Ursuline streets.

The proposed designs are part of efforts by various city agencies and organizations, including the Vieux Carre Commission, New Orleans Department of Utilities, the French Quarter Management District and Business Association and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates to mitigate the impacts a 5G network would have on the “tout ensemble,” or the unique design of the neighborhood.

5G, or fifth generation, is the newest technology standard for broadband cellular networks that are planned to succeed 4G networks and are expected to bring greater bandwidth and faster download speeds.

The towers achieve highers speeds by broadcasting higher-frequency waves at shorter ranges.

More than 800,000 towers are planned across the U.S. by 2026, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The middle tower is the current proposed design for 5G cell phone antennas in the French Quarter. Courtesy of the City of New Orleans.

Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act passed in 1996 forbids jurisdictions from banning the placement of cell phone towers in a particular area, effectively forcing local governments to adopt the technology.

However, in August 2019, a D.C. appeals court overturned a March 2018 order by the FCC that eliminated environmental and historic preservation review.

The ruling re-established the section 106 review process of the National Historic Preservation Act (passed in 1966), giving local governments the power to control the design and location of the towers.

On July 30, the Mayor’s Office of Utilities and the VCC held a public informational meeting on 5G technology, including proposed designs.

A city presentation on 5G and proposed designs released in July can be viewed here.

The towers are modeled on the existing 16-foot street lamps throughout the French Quarter, but four feet taller. At least one prototype is designed by Toro Blanco Group, a Dallas-based architectural and engineering firm.

Officials are currently accepting feedback from the public on the tower designs, which can be submitted here.


Here’s an unpublished issue of New World Quarter I drew in 2015. I began to draw the second part as soon as I sent the first to print in China and never went to print because of the low sales of the first issue, which sold for $5 a piece with no ads.

I still have three unopened cases. It’s my last work and I will probably never do another.



I present to you New World Quarter, a graphic novel published in 2015, two years after the initial Quarter Rat publication folded. While the publication in name ceased to exist, its spirit lives on in various representations, including this one.

The content was written in 2014 and reflected the French Quarter at the time. Much of what you’ll find inside will be familiar, although the settings and circumstances may seem like a far off memory. No longer can we walk inside of a local bar and socialize with our friends, neighbors or random tourists; buy shots at 3 a.m.; or see live music at our favorite venue. Five years ago seems like a decade ago compared to how quickly the world is changing at the moment. Hell, five months ago seems like five years ago.

The French Quarter scenery, however, has remained relatively the same. It was, and still is, the inspiration for the illustrations and dialogue, although some things are missing. Many of our favorite local dives are either gone or on their way out. Johnny White’s, a French Quarter institution for 50 years, is gone. We don’t dwell on such losses, although its absence adds to the melancholy we refer to as “the blues.”

But the French Quarter is more than 300 years old. What started as a small riverfront settlement of about 100 log huts is now a thriving riverfront neighborhood of exquisite buildings containing a deep culture with origins that precede America. The neighborhood doesn’t even look the same as it did; two fires in the late 18th century destroyed the vast majority of its original buildings.

Businesses and buildings come and go, although efforts are made to preserve them. But inanimate objects don’t make the French Quarter, the people do.

The government-induced, COVID-19 pandemic-influenced severe economic downturn is closing small businesses and forcing some of its longtime workers, the characters whose presences are vital to the character of the French Quarter, to relocate elsewhere and maybe never to return. The pandemic didn’t cause this; it just accelerated it.

What’s still consistent in New World Quarter is the Vieux Carre Commission, which still exerts its authority over property owners in order to preserve the historic look of the Quarter, except now their public meetings are held remotely and its building inspectors are wearing masks.

The themes expressed in New World Quarter fall within the fringe realm of conspiracy theories. They’re zany and, in many ways, meant to poke fun at themselves. Yet the authoritarianism we come to associate with these ideas smells eerily familiar to us, given our current situation. Hopefully they stay confined only to the pages of a graphic novel. –Editor