Drama last week for two longtime Marigny/Bywater nightspots along the rapidly gentrifying St. Claude Avenue arts corridor: The St. Roch Tavern faced a second consent agreement for operation of the bar following a round of allegations from the city's Alcohol Beverage Control Board regarding loitering, noise and litter at the bar. Under the terms of the new consent agreement, the bar must close entirely for two weeks beginning April 6 and close no later than 2:30 a.m. thereafter, among other requirements.
Owner Ronald Waguespack signed a similar consent agreement in 2011. That year, St. Roch Tavern faced underage drinking allegations, and the ensuing consent agreement mandated that the bar also have a noise and litter abatement program. The new agreement also orders Waguespack to soundproof the building, prohibits dogs and go-cups from the bar and orders that live music stop no later than 1:30 a.m. on weekends and 11:30 p.m. on weeknights. Waguespack also was fined $10,000.
Better news for the Backyard Ballroom, the St. Claude Avenue theater and performance space that has been mostly dark since 2011 because of zoning issues. In October 2012, operator Laura "Otter" Campbell requested a city zoning change for the Backyard Ballroom, which originally opened in 2006 and has served as a venue for dozens of musical performances and theater productions.
At last Thursday's New Orleans City Council meeting, City Planning Commission staffers recommended approval of Campbell's request for a conditional use permit — but with 12 provisos. Among them: Backyard Ballroom must be soundproofed, install a 6-foot fence, restrict hours to no later than midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, install two bike parking spaces and submit a litter abatement program.
The performance space also must pass fire and safety inspections, but it looks as though the Backyard Ballroom will be open for business in the near future. — ALEX WOODWARD