Longway Tavern, a nearly three year old gastropub from New Orleans restauranteur Robert LeBlanc (whose group also owns Sylvain, Barrel Proof, and Cavan) will close later this month, as announced on Instagram Thursday. It’s the second restaurant under the LeBlanc + Smith umbrella to close in recent months; longtime French Quarter bistro Meauxbar closed in October 2020.
The announcement said that the past year “has been one of challenge and transformation,” prompting owners to “reflect on our overarching mission of 21st century hospitality and how we can best serve the French Quarter community. We have decided to step back, regroup, and close Longway Tavern,” but, the post said, “we will not be abandoning this beloved location and its storied history. Exciting updates to come.”
Longway opened in May 2018 with a great deal of buzz, given that LeBlanc + Smith’s other spots had become known over the years for high-quality, contemporary food, careful restorations of historic buildings and stylish interiors, and some of the strongest bar programs in the city. Intended as a “classic neighborhood tavern,” Longway took over a late 1700s era building on Toulouse Street that was previously home to Little Vic’s, a late-night Italian cafe and gelato shop. The tavern’s carefully-renovated interior incorporated design nods to the building’s past and had a cozy, hidden courtyard out back that became a popular option for heated outdoor dining this winter. Bartenders were personable and contributed to a fun atmosphere at the bar, and helped make it a destination for no-proof drinks as well as creative cocktails.
Owners fired Longway Tavern’s opening chef John Sinclair in March 2019, following a NOLA.com report about his arrest the year prior. LeBlanc told Eater that while he knew of Sinclair’s arrest prior to the restaurant’s opening, he was not aware the incident had been physical. After learning details of the arrest, he said, “we had to make a decision with the 175 people in our company in mind.”
At the onset of the pandemic in mid March, the LeBlanc + Smith restaurant group was the first to voluntarily close all five of its restaurants and bars — Meauxbar, Sylvain, Barrel Proof, Cavan, and Longway Tavern — a major move that preceded Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’s statewide shutdown of bars and indoor dining at restaurants. LeBlanc + Smith reopened its restaurants in July 2020 with an overhauled business model, employing a significantly leaner staff that receive a base salary and company-provided health insurance. Meauxbar closed less than four months later, with owners referencing the “unexpected hurdles” of the pandemic and saying they intended to revive the brand in some form down the road. LeBlanc said at the time that Meauxbar staff would move over to the other LeBlanc + Smith restaurants.
Longway Tavern’s last dinner service will be February 14.
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