Tuesday, June 23rd’s marathon City Planning Commission meeting agenda tackled the 11 amendments that were introduced, but voted on, by the City Council at their May 14 meeting. Several of these amendments, all authored by District C Council member Nadine Ramsey, were of vital interest to the French Quarter, including those that would :
- Allow the sale of package liquor at restaurants
- Allow live entertainment in French Quarter restaurants and alter the permitted uses in the VCS zones (essentially the French Market, the Jax Brewery buildings, and the riverfront surface parking lots) to permit entertainment in restaurants there.
- Delete a provision requiring that entertainment venues keep doors and windows closed, and allow live and recorded entertainment in French Quarter courtyards
The big takeaway from Tuesday’s meeting is that CM Ramsey’s amendments would have grave consequences for neighborhoods, particularly the amendment that would allow open doors and windows at entertainment venues and permit entertainment in French Quarter courtyards until 2 a.m. Given the dense, mixed-use built environment of the Vieux Carre, such a provision would undoubtedly have severe and negative impacts on nearby uses, both residential and business.
A number of speakers voiced concerns about the effects of such a drastic change to French Quarter zoning, including Mamie Gasperecz, director of the Hermann-Grima Historic House Museum on St. Louis Street, whose courtyard abuts several Bourbon Street establishments. She stated that the museum’s children’s and educational programming, which includes art, drama, geography, book clubs, archaeology, math, science, history, architecture, camps, Boy and Girl Scout badge programs, and more, would not exist if courtyards are allowed to have entertainment. And in a letter to the commission, a 32 year old Royal Street resident whose husband is a full-time musician, wrote, “We have enough trouble with the volume of the music playing INSIDE the clubs. How could we expect clubs to do a better job managing the volume of their live entertainment outside of the clubs? I find it shocking that this radical change is even an option.”
The Commission voted to send the amendments along to the City Council, although it’s still unclear as to whether specific amendments (which were voted on preliminarily) will be accompanied by recommendations, or whether only the final “umbrella” vote on all the amendments counts. We want to be certain that we are providing you with accurate information, and will write a follow-up report once the CPC’s official minutes are made public on Monday.