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French Quarter Battles Habana Outpost Restaurant Proposal

The Vieux CarréCommission is scheduled to hold a final hearing Wednesday on a restaurant proposed for the French Quarter. A year-long battle with residents over the project will likely continue, no matter what’s decided.

What the intersection looked like in 1939.

Sean Meenan wants open a two-story open-air Cuban restaurant at North Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue. He operates two similar establishments in New York City and one in Malibu, California.

But neighbors of the proposed Habana Outpost say it’s too big, and it doesn’t belong where the Quarter also borders the historic Tremé and Marigny neighborhoods.

Some residents oppose the restaurant plan and placed these signs in the neighborhood.

Meenan says it’s a big improvement over the run-down gas station he purchased and cleaned up — and wants to include in the restaurant design.

“What I see there is, I see that’s the gateway to the French Quarter, and there’s only four corners to the French Quarter," Meenan says. "That’s one of them, and it shouldn’t look like that.”

Meg Lousteau is executive director of the Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates.

She agrees the corner is now an eyesore, and a restaurant there would be nice.

“There’s a long list of permitted uses in the zoning code that would be absolutely fantastic at that location and a restaurant is one of them," she said. "One that was, perhaps, a little bit smaller.”    

Meenan wants the use of three lots for the restaurant that will face Rampart, and an art gallery to face Esplanade. He’s asking permission for just over 200 seated diners and operating hours until midnight.

Residents fear a packed and rowdy young crowd, but Meenan says his restaurants attract all age groups. And, because he plans to live next door, he can make sure noise is not an issue.

No matter what decision the commission makes, the losing side has the option to file an appeal with the New Orleans City Council.

Eileen is a news reporter and producer for WWNO. She researches, reports and produces the local daily news items. Eileen relocated to New Orleans in 2008 after working as a writer and producer with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. for seven years.