Editor's Note: In his Monday blog, Errol Laborde wrote about the site of the historic Tujague's restaurant in the French Quarter being sold and turned into a tourist-oriented gift shop. The building is now in the hands of Stanford Latter, the brother of Steven Latter who, until his recent death, operated Tujague's. The potential buyer, Mike Motwani, has a record for converting existing businesses into T-shirt stores which in turn decrease the character of the area around them. The following letter is from Ann Tuennerman, founder of the local Tales of the Cocktail.
Subject: Open Letter to Stanford Latter
To: Mr. Stanford Latter
Dear Mr. Latter,
Let me start by saying how sorry I am about the recent loss of your brother, Steve. In the time I got to know him through my work with Tales of the Cocktail and the New Orleans Cocktail Tour, two things always stood out: his dry wit and his love for New Orleans. He clearly had a deep respect for the history and culture of our great city with the way he ran Tujague’s for more than 30 years.
Now, I don’t claim to be a real estate expert so I can’t speak to getting the most out of your investment. But as the founder of New Orleans Culinary and Cocktail Preservation Society, I do know about our city’s rich history of dining and drinks. Tujague’s is the place that continued the legacy of Madame Begue’s legendary brunches and where the Grasshopper cocktail was invented. It’s the home of brisket and horseradish and the beautiful long standup bar that takes you back in time when you order a drink. It breaks my heart to picture the doorway of this landmark littered with Drunk 1 and Drunk 2 T-shirts.
This city is in the midst of a renaissance, one that’s met with both excitement and fear. Every day brings progress that New Orleans hasn’t seen in decades. But the great fear, one that’s generations old, is that with progress comes a cleansing of the culture that makes this place not just a great place to visit but, more importantly, a great place to live. Culture doesn’t just disappear in a day. Here one day, gone tomorrow. It erodes slowly as people put the bottom line ahead of everything else. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With what you choose to do with the Tujague’s building, you can stand for the peaceful coexistence between progress and culture.
I know business is business. But sometimes selling to the highest bidder comes with costs that can’t be counted in dollars and cents. Like losing yet another of our beloved restaurants and a piece of the living history that makes New Orleans so special. If you sell the Tujague’s building to the wrong person, the rest of us will be the ones paying for it. So please, Mr. Latter, respect our history, respect our culture and respect the legacy your brother worked his life to build.
Ann Tuennerman, Founder of Tales of the Cocktail