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Brennan's restaurant set for auction

Susan Langenhennig, The Times-Picayune By Susan Langenhennig, The Times-Picayune
on November 08, 2012 at 10:34 AM, updated November 09, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Brennan’s, the Creole New Orleans restaurant that has been among the French Quarter’s culinary landmarks since 1946 and the flagship of the original Brennan family’s restaurant empire, is set to go up for auction in the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s sale on Dec. 13, but efforts are under way to stop the proceedings.

02LG.BRENNAN2 Executive Chef Lazone Randolph at Brennan's Restaurant on Royal St. in the French Quarter. Jennifer Zdon, The Times-Picayune archive

The restaurant’s property, at 417-425 Royal St., was the first listing in the auction notices in Wednesday’s Times-Picayune. But "everything is already in motion to stop the sale," said attorney Bridget Brennan Tyrrell, speaking Thursday (Nov. 8) evening through a spokesperson. Brennan Tyrrell is the daughter of Ted Brennan, owner of the restaurant. 

Brennan’s was founded in 1946 by Owen Edward Brennan Sr. and was embroiled in the family’s famous feud after his death.

According to the Brennan’s restaurant cookbook, its roots date back to 1943, when Brennan bought the Old Absinthe House Bar on Bourbon Street. Then, in 1946, he opened Owen Brennan's Vieux Carre in a space across the street. The restaurant would eventually involve Brennan's five siblings and father as it grew into one of the city’s famous dining destinations, serving movie stars, such as Vivien Leigh, John Wayne and Gary Cooper.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the following change: Though the Brennnan's property was still listed on the Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff's Office website Thursday, family attorney Bridget Brennan Tyrrell said late Thursday evening that "Everything is already in motion to stop the sale."

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Jefferson Parish Council approves electronic sign law

Electronic signs such as this one in Elmwood are the subject of a new law approved Wednesday by the Jefferson Parish Council. (Photo by The Times-Picayune archive)
Drew Broach, | The Times-Picayune By Drew Broach, | The Times-Picayune
on November 07, 2012 at 7:24 PM, updated November 08, 2012 at 9:10 AM

Jefferson Parish, after 18 months of study and debate and a few last-minute changes, has a special ordinance to regulate electronic signs. The law restricts the size and location of new electronic variable message signs, bans animation and special effects and makes provisions for owners of existing signs to comply with some of the rules and legally ignore others.

It was born of a lengthy study by the Planning Department, three public hearings and a compromise last week between two major interest groups: the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and the Civic League of East Jefferson. The Parish Council put its own stamp on the measure Wednesday with two noteworthy changes:


  • Owners of existing electronic signs that don't comply with the new size and location rules won't have to alter the physical structures or move them unless they are at least 75 percent damaged by fire, storms or other calamities. The chamber and Civic League had endorsed a seven-year deadline for compliance.
  • The "dwell time," the period that a single message must stay visible before a new message appears, will be three seconds for signs at businesses along major roads. That's half the time specified in the proposal written by the Planning Department and approved by the Planning Advisory Board, chamber and Civic League. The dwell time on minor roads remains six seconds, on highways eight seconds.


Current sign owners have until July 1 to alter the electronic programming to comply with the bans on special effects, animation and dwell time.

"This is one of those issues that there's no way everybody is going to be happy," council Chairman Elton Lagasse said.

'This is one of those issues that there's no way everybody is going to be happy.' -- Parish Chairman Elton Lagasse

Indeed, much of the discussion in recent weeks centered on balancing business' desire for effective advertising and investment protection with opponents' concerns about aesthetics and traffic safety.

Three business people balked at the proposal Wednesday, two of them complaining that they learned of it late in the game without the opportunity for adequate consultation. The third, Al Oglesby, who owns an electronic sign on Clearview Parkway at Interstate 10 in Metairie, said the six-second dwell shouldn't be the uniform rule on major roads.

"Six seconds may work great on Clearview and West Esplanade" Avenue, he said. "It might not work -- I know it doesn't work" -- at Clearview and the interstate."

Civic League representatives applauded the process and, for the most, the product. In a parish seeking to shed its reputation for visual clutter, league President Ralph Brandt said, "We can't afford to backslide into a neon jungle."

"We need to be more like The Woodlands than Pigeon Forge," added Debbie Settoon, contrasting the master-planned community north of Houston with the eastern Tennessee home of Dollywood.


Voters have the last word on Crescent City Connection toll extension

Published: Tuesday, November 06, 2012, 8:34 AM     Updated: Tuesday, November 06, 2012, 8:36 AM

After weeks of highly charged debate via email blasts and Facebook, dueling news conferences and pitches at public meetings, voters will have the final say today on whether tolls on the Crescent City Connection should be extended for 20 years. It will be the first time in its history that residents will weigh in on the funding source for the bridge, since tolls were instituted in 1989.

Crescent City Connection.jpg The fate of the Crescent City Connection tolls is now in the hands of voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes. They will expire Dec.31, unless today's referendum is approved. The Times-Picayune archive

Voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes will find this question on the ballot: "Shall the toll be renewed and collected on the Crescent City Connection Bridge at the rate provided by law beginning on January 1, 2013, and ending on December 31, 2033, with the toll revenue dedicated solely for the following purposes along U.S. 90Z from Interstate 10 to U.S. 90: operations, maintenance, landscaping, grass cutting, trash pickup, functional and ornamental lighting, police functions, inspections, motorist assistance patrols, and capital projects on the bridges, approaches, and roadways and with further authorization for such tolls to be funded into revenue bonds for any one or more capital projects?"

The tolls, which cost 40 cents with a toll tag and $1 cash, generate $21 million annually for bridge operations. They are set to end Dec. 31, unless voters approve an extension.

Supporters say the tolls ensure a dedicated source of revenue for the nation's fifth busiest bridge in a time of shrinking state resources. Without tolls, maintenance, including large scale projects such as repainting the newest span, will have to compete with a $12 billion backlog of transportation projects from around the state. They also cite the state's prohibition on paying for lighting, which would be left up to struggling local governments. And drivers face the possibility of increased traffic gridlock.

Opponents deride the toll as a tax unfairly borne by West Bank residents. They also point to years of waste and mismanagement in the form of a $4 million insurance policy for the bridge that wasn't needed; a $3 million expansion of the bridge agency's administrative offices and illegal use of toll dollars for the Louisiana 1 bridge project. Opponents also say that the region's legislative delegation should fight for $6 million in license plate fees residents pay into a transportation trust fund and use that money to run the bridge.

The campaign has been likened to one of David versus Goliath. A grassroots effort of civic and business groups, led by state Rep. Pat Connick, R-Harvey, a CCC critic who has spent years examining bridge operations, have used word of mouth and radio ads to make their case. More than 200 businesses, mainly on the West Bank, have weighed in against the measure.

Bridging Progress, a political action committee of several business advocacy groups including the Jefferson Business Council, Jefferson Chamber, Algiers Economic Development Foundation, Greater New Orleans Inc. and Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry, has mounted a $200,000 effort using newspaper, radio and television ads and direct mail. It has enlisted elected officials and law enforcement chiefs in backing the referendum.

The polls are open through 8 p.m.

Stay with for election updates.


New Orleans taxi regulations are extended to the airport

Richard Rainey, | The Times-Picayune By Richard Rainey, | The Times-Picayune
on November 01, 2012 at 7:20 PM, updated November 01, 2012 at 9:35 PM

The New Orleans City Council ruled Thursday that all cabs operating at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, regardless of their home parish, must comply with the city's new taxi regulations. It's a blanket policy designed to keep competition level among New Orleans cabs and those from parishes with less restrictive policies.

Airport Taxis Arriving passengers are loaded into taxis at the taxi stand outside baggage claim at Louis Armstrong International Airport. Michael DeMocker, | The Times-Picayune

"This is another step in what I consider a promise to the industry," Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, "that they have the same type of competitive advantage when we talk about the airport."

But dozens of drivers gathered Thursday at City Hall didn't protest competition. They protested the cost of the upgrades themselves, hitting a chord several drivers have repeated for weeks. "You all are disrespecting the people of this industry," said Monroe Coleman, owner of Coleman Cab Co.

Malachi Hull, director of the city's Taxicab Bureau, has estimated the cost of the upgrades at about $2,000. City officials on Thursday said several venders were installing security cameras at steep discounts -- an assertion that brought jeers from the audience. One driver put the total cost closer to $7,500, leading each side to accuse the other of spreading misinformation.

Representatives of other cab companies spoke in favor of extending the rules to the city-owned airport.

The new regulations state that New Orleans taxis must be equipped with security cameras, air conditioning, GPS devices and credit-card machines. They must be no older than 11 years, although that age limit will drop to seven in 2013. In addition, cab drivers must use working, regulated meters and they must be fluent in English.

"You are our ambassadors." -- New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson

The council's action was the final step needed for the changes, which were passed by the New Orleans Aviation Board in July. The council's Transportation Committee affirmed the regulations last month. "You are our ambassadors," City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson told the cabbies.

The new regulations will end the airport policy that cabs picking up passengers must return empty to the airport, Aviation Director Iftikhar Ahmad said. There will still be a $200 fee associated with the decals meted out to cabs in compliance with the new rules, a cost that helps cover the $1.2 million annual cost to maintain the airport taxi stands and facilities.

Michelle Thomas, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's deputy mayor of operations, said 459 New Orleans cabs work at the airport, a number in decline since the airport stopped issuing new decals seven years ago. If all 1,551 licensed cabs in the metro area comply with the new rules and buy new decals, they can start picking up airport fares, she said.

But cab driver Jason Coleman argued Thursday that that would further dilute the already sparse market of available passengers at the mid-sized airport.

Other opponents argued that the time to implement the upgrades -- which must be done before a taxi's next inspection -- was too short. Landrieu has said he wants all New Orleans cabs in compliance in time for the 2013 Super Bowl in February. After the rules were proposed in April, they were hung up in court until August, when a district judge ruled them legal. City officials estimate 400 cabs have complied so far.

City Councilwoman Stacy Head expressed some regret about where the regulations ended up. She said cabbies should be allowed to use mobile phones to accept payments, instead of permanent, fixed credit card machines; that there should be more venders providing security cameras; and that a vehicle's age should mean less than its condition. That last one got her a round of applause from the drivers.

Nevertheless, Head voted for the ordinance and for Thursday's resolution. "It's just making sure that everybody plays by the same rules," she said.


Louisiana-based VooDoo BBQ begins expansion into Florida

Mark Waller, | The Times-Picayune By Mark Waller, | The Times-Picayune
on November 01, 2012 at 12:06 PM, updated November 01, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Louisiana-based VooDoo BBQ & Grill is pushing forward with ambitions to become a national brand by expanding into Florida. The company, which is headquartered in Prairieville and opened its first restaurant in New Orleans a decade ago, operates 11 locations in Louisiana as well as stores in Greenville, S.C., and Austin, Tex.

voodoo-bbq-owners VooDoo BBQ founders and partners, Steve Gill, left, Tony Aliva, center, and Dino Arvanetes, right, are pictured at one of their New Orleans stores in September 2011. Times-Picayune archive

The barbeque purveyor announced this week that it has started construction on its first Florida store, in Pembroke Pines near Fort Lauderdale. Next year, it plans to add two more stores in Fort Lauderdale and one in Kendall, south of Miami.

The chain hopes to open 26 stores in Florida over the next 10 years.

To finance the expansion, company officials said they are taking advantage of a federal program that lets foreign investors support companies providing jobs in the United States in exchange for immigrant visas for the investors and their families.

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