Shocking video shows how Habana Outpost would trash French Quarter


The struggle over not just noise pollution but historic preservation and the basic quality of life in New Orleans — and more specifically the Vieux Carre, or French Quarter — is coming to a head. Officials here seem eager to approve a new project that would be the final nail in the coffin of livability in one of America’s great neighborhoods.

A chain fast-food restaurant establishment called the Habana Outpost has been operating for several years in Brooklyn, New York — where it has been the target of frequent complaints by neighbors about noise pollution as well as out-of-control rowdyism, attracting massive, ill-behaved crowds until all hours of the night. In a perfect world, that would be seen as the last thing that you would want wedged into an architectural and cultural treasure like the Vieux Carre. But right now the so-called leaders of New Orleans are folks who are intent on creating on boozed-up adult Disneyland for young tourists who come to get so intoxicated they probably think they’re in Havana by the time they stagger out noisily onto our quaint residential streets.

The politicians and their administrative hatchet men who support this new Fort Lauderdale approach to economic development like to give lip service to the commonly held belief of the local folk that New Orleans greatness is based on its unique and culturally diverse NEIGHBORHOODS!! They will pound the pavement while campaigning for office and talk about neighborhoods until they are blue in the face while the bureaucrats they control pass out illegal permit after permit without any public involvement. In recent months, city officials have totally twisted the rules on so-called “non-conforming uses” to issue an entertainment permit to allow noisy drag shows at a bar called the Golden Lantern. The exact same thing happened with a loud, late-night bar called Mimi’s in the Marigny.

Residents can’t help but feel the fix is in. The Vieux Carre Commission, which is tasked with preserving the French Quarter, did very much the opposite of that in September when it tentatively approved Habana Outpost. The VCC voted to approve this project even though unrebutted evidence was presented that it would destroy the quaint and distinctive character of the area. This decision has been appealed to the city council.

And, as I noted last month in a blog post:

When residents sued the property owner to get rid of unsightly and illegal billboards on the proposed site of the Habana Outpost nightclub on Esplanade Avenue, the VCC struck a deal with the developer and the city, instead of sitting on the sidelines as is usually the case, intervened in the lawsuit without a peep by the council. — on the side of the New York developer and not the beleaguered local residents. The city sued the neighbors!! Looks like the fix is in on that illegal project as well.

But the war is far from over. Recently, the City Council kicked the matter back to the commission, and momentum against the project seems to be building. Now comes what may be the tipping point. Opponents have produced a stunning video that really makes clear — for the uninitiated — how inappropriate Habana Outpost is for its proposed location at Esplanade and N. Rampart Street, how wide an area will be devastated by noise pollution from the project, and how many boozed-up party seekers will flood that corner of the French Quarter. In particular, note the shot of the hordes mobbing the club’s Brooklyn location — which proves that New Orleans needs that as much as it needs another hurricane.

But the video is worth 10,000 words — so I urge you to just watch it, and ask yourself…why New Orleans would want to trash the crown jewel of our city, the residential French Quarter?

Read my Oct. 17 blog post attacking the Landrieu administration’s handling of noise, rowdyism and blight at:

For the latest on the Habana Outpost case before the Vieux Carre Commission, please check out:

Read more about the city’s ruling on the Golden Lantern at:

To learn about the permitting for Mimi’s, please read:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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