A meal at any of the city's Creole grande dames can cost a pretty penny, but that's nothing compared to the renovation Antoine's Restaurant has planned.
This week, the owners of the city's oldest restaurant won approval from state officials to use Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds to help finance a $27 million renovation of their sprawling French Quarter building. Reports say the bonds will pay for about $12 million of the work, with the rest coming from private sources.
This GO Zone bond program was created right after hurricanes Katrina and Rita to help spur reinvestment in the region, and businesses are still tapping it for help getting new projects going. The Antoine's folks reportedly told the state the renovations will get the restaurant into compliance with building and fire codes, build a larger kitchen, stabilize its foundation and treat for termites. The work is supposed to start early in 2009 and take about a year to complete.
That sounds like a pretty thorough overhaul for the old place, and $27 million is certainly the most lavish budget I've ever heard of for a restaurant renovation. I wonder how the character of the historic building, that patina of age and 168-years of restaurant use that gives the place its identity today, will come through the application of that much work and money.
-- Ian McNulty