One evening this past April, I attended a wine tasting that was held in a converted warehouse that wine expert James Moises has made into the location of his distribution business. The idea was to also use a section of the space for wine and cheese events. The mood was good that night, as it tends to be whenever corks are about to be pulled. The mood was even better as I noticed the continuous flow of bikes charging across the street from the warehouse along the former track bed that now makes up the Lafitte Greenway. I felt the joy I always feel whenever things go right with the city. Imagine a recently blighted industrial neighborhood now vibrating with happiness, not fear.
There was more. In the distance was the vibration from live on stage music. Had the confluence of similar events ever happened in this neighborhood? I think not. One of the great developments along North Broad during the dark days of the pandemic shutdown was the conversion of a former supply house into a multiple screen movie theater – one of the few places left to see a film in the city. Theater owner Brian Knighten has since developed adjacent land with an outdoor stage as a site for live performances, crafts shows and food trucks. It is a happy, fun place right in the heart of a city known more lately for the echo of gun shots than high notes, yet during the summer we saw an incredible show as the Electric Yat Quartet had a concert starring Andre Bohren (yes, the late Spencer Bohren’s son) who closed out the show with a riveting performance of “Rhapsody In Blue”—right there on North Broad Street. The full moon in a purple sky added dramatic lighting.
All of this may be in danger though. According to a story by reporter Michael Isaac Stein in The Lens, a respectable journalism research organization, the city is cracking down on possible violations that might cause the outdoor area to be shut down. A similar fate is being faced a few blocks away by the bizarrely named Zony Mash Beer Project (named after a Meters album), which makes its own beers and provides entertainment on its grounds.
Full disclosure here. I have been out of town and I am writing this late on a Sunday afternoon when I do not have full contact for the city’s side of the story. According to Stein’s reporting there might be some area for compromise but it is not definite yet. All I know is that the collective minds at City Hall and on music stages should be able to find answers—and please, in both cases the locations are in industrial areas; disturbing the neighbors is NOT an issue because there are few of them in the area. If I lived in the neighborhood I would sit on the front porch; fix Sazeracs and invite the neighbors.
On its own North Broad has already developed its own coolness, especially in the area of the Zulu Organization’s headquarters where there is frequent partying on the streets, especially at election times when there is politicking to fill its top-heavy whimsical load of officers.
North Broad Street could be great if we just take interest and let it happen. If you are driving though just be careful of the bikers hurrying along the Greenway. They want to party too.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.