Madisonville landmark 'T-Rivers' plans re-opening early next yea - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Madisonville landmark 'T-Rivers' plans re-opening early next year

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The sun sets behind pilings of T-Rivers bar, under construction in Madisonville (John Snell) The sun sets behind pilings of T-Rivers bar, under construction in Madisonville (John Snell)
T-Rivers, as seen in this October 2011, file photo (John Snell) T-Rivers, as seen in this October 2011, file photo (John Snell)

MADISONVILLE, La - Mike Benjamin figures the best defense for the Madisonville landmark he is rebuilding is height.

"It was about two feet off the ground," Benjamin said of T-Rivers, the bar along the Tchefuncte River that Hurricane Isaac's storm surge leveled last year.

In recent weeks, contractors drove pilings that bring the new height to nearly 18 feet above sea level.

Benjamin and a couple partners had high hopes when they bought T-Rivers in August of 2012.

Their timing turned out to be unfortunate.

"Three weeks before Isaac," on Aug. 29, 2012, Benjamin recalled.

Benjamin made improvements to the 42-year-old building, including the first air-conditioning.

"The Sunday before the storm, it was packed," Benjamin said. "And the storm took us out the next day."

The surge from Isaac knocked the old place off its pilings, and generally put Madisonville out of commission.

"It was like a tidal wave came through," said Madisonville Mayor Peter Gitz.

Nick Hebert, the electrical contractor working on the site, notes, "People are always asking, 'what's the deal with T-Rivers?'"

The answer is January or February, according to Benjamin, who plans to open the bar and dance hall in two phases. Phase Two, opening sometime in mid-2014, will include a small restaurant on the top floor serving bar food.

Benjamin concedes he encountered obstacles along the way, navigating through the permitting process and "just trying to figure out the wind load from the engineer's standpoint" for a building on stilts.

All the work will pay off sometime early next year.

"We just want to bring it back," Benjamin said. "Get it rockin' and rollin' again."

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