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Vieux Carre Commission gives tentative green light to restaurant

Proposed site of Habana Outpost restaurant Proposed site of Habana Outpost restaurant

New Orleans, La. - Plans move forward for the development of a controversial restaurant in the Quarter. On Wednesday, the Vieux Carre Commission gave the green light to owner Sean Meenan, even as nearby home and business owners remain at odds over the idea. But even with the progress Wednesday, the project is not yet a done deal.

Sean Meenan couldn't be happier that he's one step closer to opening his restaurant, Habana Outpost in the French Quarter.

"I feel great, I really do," he said. "I've worked with the commission now for a long time, and we've really worked hard to get the project to the place that it is now, and having the change-of-use approval is a great one. Feels good."

The Vieux Carre Commission on Wednesday agreed to change the permits for Meenan's property at N. Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue to pave the way for the restaurant to open. But the vote didn't come easily. First, the Commission heard from almost 30 residents who had very different opinions about the project.

"Proof is in the pudding," one speaker said. "If we want a good pudding and we really want to have a good neighborhood, we have to move forward. We have to approve this conditional usage of this building."

Another man opposed the project.

"This proposed use is simply too large, too intensive and too out of character," he told the Commission.

At times, tensions ran high.

"Your job since 1936 is to protect the quaint, distinctive character of the Vieux Carre. That's your job," French Quarter resident Sonny Shields told the Commission.

Some say the old gas station on the lot and the blighted property pose a serious safety risk.

"As a young woman, walking past that corner can be unsavory in the least, at night or even in the afternoons," said Jackie Dadakis. "The idea that it could be coming back into business after so many years of being a blighted building is something I'm really enthusiastic about."

Others say they worry about parking and the noise that the restaurant will generate. In the end however, the VCC agreed that Meenan should be able to move forward with the project, with one condition. He must return to the Commission's Architectural Committee with a copy of his final construction plans.

It's another hurdle Meenan is taking in stride.

"We've been working with them now, it's been over a year, and we have a good relationship," he said. "And they really help make the project better, so I'm looking forward to going back and speaking with them."

After the meeting, Meenan will have to go before the VCC once more for another vote before he learns if he'll get final approval for Habana Outpost.

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