Twenty-year-old French Quarter absinthe hub Pirate's Alley may have to close down by June 15, Richard Webster reports this week. Apparently the beloved bar is not zoned as a bar at all, but as a restaurant, and since it takes in over 75% of its sales in booze, its alcohol license and future are now at stake.
To make matters worse, in 2005 a state audit discovered the bar was ringing up alcohol as food— perhaps as a way to get by with its restaurant zoning, which requires 50% in food sales or a potential loss of liquor license— and the ATC rediscovered the same problem in 2013, though it has since stopped.
While the state has now agreed to issue Pirate's Alley a bar license, the city also has to be on board, which doesn't appear to be happening very easily.
While the city's zoning administrator approved a request for Pirate's Alley to operate as a bar in late 2015, the Department of Safety and Permits overruled that decision last month, stating that there wasn't enough 'demonstrable proof' to prove that Pirate's Alley Cafe had already been operating as a bar for 10+ years or that the city knew about it— two prerequisites for the exemption. They also want to see more proof that alcohol consistently makes up over 50% of sales at the bar.
Owners Thais Solano and Tony Seville have sent in numerous news articles, affidavits, sales records, and have even started an online petition and Facebook page to save Pirate's Alley, which many folks consider a French Quarter landmark. The duo note that at 398-square-feet the bar doesn't really have room to do food, and what they've tried— cheese plates, microwaved bar snacks, and such— has never been successful.