VCPORA has filed a formal appeal with the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) challenging the determination made by Safety and Permits that the newly opened Willie’s Chicken Shack at 601 Chartres Street is allowed per the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO).

This location (now the 5th of its kind in the French Quarter and the 8th in downtown New Orleans), was permitted as a “Standard Restaurant,” despite the fact that it meets many of the defining characteristics of a “Fast Food Restaurant,” which are not permitted in the Vieux Carré.

Your help is needed! Write to the BZA and attend the meeting on Monday, February 10 at 10:00 a.m.!

The CZO defines a “Fast Food Restaurant” as:

An establishment, which may be part of a chain of fast food outlets, that is oriented around the quick-service of meals for on-premise or off-premise consumption. Typically, a fast-food restaurant’s design or principal method of operation includes three (3) or more of the following characteristics:

    1) a permanent menu board is provided from which to select and order food;
    2) standardized floor plans, architecture and/or sign design are used over
several locations;

    3) customers pay for food before consuming it;
    4) a self-service condiment bar is provided;
    5) trash receptacles are provided for self-service bussing;
    6) furnishing plan indicates hard-finished, stationary seating arrangements;
    7) drive-through service is offered;
    8) most main course food items are prepackaged rather than made to order.

Fast food restaurants may not offer alcoholic beverages for sale. Table service by restaurant employees is not provided.

Given that every location of Willie’s Chicken Shack provides a permanent menu board for ordering (1), and which orders are placed and paid for prior to consumption (3), within a business interior, including signage and signature drink, that has been standardized and branded across all locations (2), this business clearly meets the first three characteristics of a “Fast Food Restaurant.”

The remaining criteria, such as the placement of trash receptacles (temporary) and the location of condiment bars (theirs are in individual table caddies) can be easily manipulated as needed.


Can they operate as a Bar that sells Food?

No. This property falls in the VCC-2 (Vieux Carré Commercial) zoning district which does not allow Bars as permitted uses.  Standard Restaurants are allowed, and can sell alcohol by right. Notably, Willie’s Chicken Shack markets its signature frozen cocktail and a wall of daiquiri machines at all of its locations.

Why this is a Problem?

Fast Food restaurants are not a permitted use anywhere in the Vieux Carré. The City and its residents spent thousands of hours crafting the CZO to determine what communities’ prioritized in their neighborhoods. The product of this collaboration yielded a desire to prohibit fast food restaurants and limit formula retail businesses in order to protect the authenticity, integrity, and desirability of the French Quarter.

Most business owners strive to offer an original experience that cannot be appreciated anywhere else, thus contributing to the health and vibrancy of the entire region. The Vieux Carré is known, and protected by State Constitution, for the distinctive quality of its architecture, culture, and community. The CZO is the means by which an influx of similarly styled commercial offerings can be prevented to avoid the homogenization of this National Historic Landmark. For this reason, VCPORA will continue to defend the authority of the CZO to evenly apply regulations for all business and property owners.


What Can You Do?

WRITE to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and ATTEND the meeting to express your concerns about the dangerous precedent being set by this business model and the flagrant violations of the CZO.
Monday, February 10, 2020, 10:00 a.m.
City Council Chambers, City Hall
1300 Perdido St, 1st Floor

Sample language:


Subject: Support for BZA Docket 104-19

Dear Board of Zoning Adjustment members,

I am writing in support of BZA Docket Number 104-19 asserting that the business located at 601 Chartres Street is illegally operating as a “Fast Food Restaurant.”
The newest Willie’s Chicken Shack, like each of its 7 other locations, clearly meets many of the characteristics defining “Fast Food Restaurants,” including but not limited to, a permanent menu board, ordering and paying prior to consumption, and a stylized interior and signage replicated across locations.

The historic Vieux Carré is internationally known for its unique culture and architecture, particularly its diversity of commercial offerings and experiences. It must remain a place where residents, locals, and visitors alike can enjoy its authenticity and integrity.

Please protect this authenticity by upholding the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and its authority to evenly apply land use regulations to all business and property owners. Willie’s Chicken Shack meets the definition of a Fast Food Restaurant and allowing it, and similarly styled businesses, to proliferate where they are prohibited by law, endangers the viability and desirability of the entire community.