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Gambit's 2013 Year in Review 

A look at the strangest, most interesting and in some cases, most alarming stories of the year.

Page 3 of 5

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

National chains invade NOLA

So what if Baton Rouge got a Trader Joe's first? It probably means ours is right behind. Despite New Orleanians' stated preference for local shops and products, they rushed to embrace chains both large (Costco) and smaller (Pei Wei, Five Guys Burgers & Fries and the other shops in the Mid-City Marketplace). The year-end opening of Tiffany and Co. — New Orleans' first — in The Shops at Canal Place drew attention, but if you wanted crowds, the one outside H&M on N. Peters Street drew people who stood in a four-block-long line to be the first through the doors.

  Next year will bring the reopening of Riverwalk Marketplace, transformed into The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, which will feature Neiman Marcus, Kenneth Cole, Forever 21 ... and New Orleans' first-ever Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill. Um ... yay?

Elevator failure at City Hall

City Council President Jackie Clarkson was an hour late for an October council meeting about the budget — because she'd gotten trapped on one of City Hall's elevators. (It would have made a hell of a Halloween costume.) It couldn't have shaken up the councilwoman too much, though, because two months later she reversed course on her planned retirement and is now running for her old council seat in District C.

Falcons triumph and Seahawks defeat

The height of satisfaction: Beating the Falcons 17-13 at the Georgia Dome Nov. 21. And the depths of despair: Getting beaten by the Seahawks two weeks later in Seattle, 34-7.

Endless street repair/streetcar repair

The never-ending reconstruction of Napoleon Avenue continued all year — and orange cones and webbing seemed to spread all over the city like an invasive plant. Esplanade Avenue was a mess right up until Jazz Fest, and the end of the year saw street tear-ups from Orleans Avenue and Bienville Street to Jefferson Davis Parkway. Some day you will be able to tell your children about the crape myrtles on Napoleon.

click to enlarge cover_story-7.jpg

John Georges

The nascent newspaper wars in New Orleans got more interesting in May when local businessman John Georges bought the Baton Rouge-based The Advocate and announced he was making a play for the New Orleans newspaper market, which was still in turmoil after The Times-Picayune's 2012 "digital transition" to publication three days a week. Georges beefed up the New Orleans bureau substantially and branded the paper with a new slogan: "Seven Days, Louisiana Owned, Home Delivered." Meanwhile, the T-P continued to innovate by publishing a tabloid edition, TP Street, on three of the days it had stopped printing a daily paper, and by year's end its newsboxes were once again advertising "The Times-Picayune: 7 Days a Week." It seems print's not dead in New Orleans — as evidenced by the December announcement that the NOLA Defender website ( plans to launch a quarterly print edition in 2014.

"The Intoxicating, Tradition-Steeped Charm of New Orleans"

The juggernaut of national (and international) publicity for New Orleans continued all year — most of it fulsome praise, a good deal of it questionable. But was there anything worse than Sara Ruffin Costello's paean to the city in The New York Times' glossy T Magazine? Costello, a recent transplant from New York, said she "had spent my adult life trying to shed my Southern roots," before rhapsodizing about all the things she'd discovered in New Orleans —most of which can be found as easily in Brooklyn as they can now in Bywater.

  Costello managed to name-drop another recent transplant, the singer Solange Knowles (the two shared a plate of empanadas at Booty's Street Food) while managing to insult a place she was trying to praise: the Erin Rose bar in the French Quarter. Costello called it "a classic joint in a century-old building with a crusty patina and mixed clientele — some with teeth."

  More than 100 people commented on the story on the NYT website, and most were not complimentary about Costello's condescension. In fact, you could say they showed her their teeth.

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Tie: Go-cup a go-go/Live music permits and zoning

This summer, days before the New Orleans Daiquiri Festival, Facebook and Twitter lit up with pleas to save go -ups. From what? Gentrifying business owners looking to kick plastic cups from their bars, city officials planning legislation to repeal open-container laws, or neighborhood groups forcing new businesses to stop serving them? None of these things happened — however, fears persisted. St. Roch Tavern, after repeated infractions, had its go-cup privileges revoked by the city in June. Alcohol Beverage Control Board and City Planning Commission (CPC) meetings were closely watched as go-cups became subject to approval — though no businesses were told to stop serving them. City officials noted repeatedly there is no plan to ban go-cups; existing businesses may be prohibited from serving them if they fail to meet ABO license requirements. Arts and culture overlays, like on St. Claude Avenue, allow new businesses to have go-cups as long as they have the bar's logo on them.

  Meanwhile, zoning and music permit issues have cropped up again as they did in 2012, this time on Frenchmen Street, where New Orleans Police Department officers recently patrolled — enforcing rarely enforced regulations on the lively street. Watch for this story to become a biggie in 2014.

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