The Dew Drop Inn, a former Central City nightclub and hotel with huge regional historical significance, is set for restoration after New Orleans’s City Council unanimously approved plans for its revival.
The Council voted 7-0 in favor of the revitalization project at a meeting last Thursday, clearing the way for a local developer’s plans to restore the building to a hotel with a pool, a music venue and bar, and a retail space. “Putting this back into commerce is a wonderful, wonderful thing,” said District B Councilman Jay Banks at the meeting. “It adds to the musical legacy of the wonderfully musical city that we have.”
It’s the latest attempt in recent years to bring back the “Drop,” as it was once called, which for decades thrived as a venue for Black musicians in addition to being a leading hotel, restaurant, and bar. First opened as a barbershop by Frank Painia in 1939, it’s been called “the most important and influential music club” in New Orleans’s post-war period, hosting famed artists like Tina Turner, James Brown, Ray Charles, and Earl King. It closed in 1970, two years after Painia’s death.
According to a report from Uptown Messenger, Painia’s grandchildren recently sold the property to local developer Curtis Doucette, whose company Iris Development specializes in the “rehabilitation of mixed-income rental communities” and developing affordable housing in New Orleans. His plans, said city planner Stephen Kroll at last week’s meeting, are in line with the purpose of the building’s zoning ordinance, which is intended to allow for live entertainment in neighborhoods where arts and cultural venues have historically existed. “It is a historically significant site and it will help restore commerce along La Salle Street. The Planning Commission is really effusively in support of it,” said Kroll.
The possibility of the Dew Drop Inn’s rebirth is major, but also fraught with potential issues. While the City Council’s concerns primarily involved parking and noise levels, there are also issues of cultural and historical preservation, access, and of course, cost, which has previously prevented the building’s restoration. Kroll has said the restoration will be historically accurate, and that he aims to recreate the building’s facade from the 1950s. MaCCNO, a music and cultural advocacy organization in New Orleans, has said initial conversations with the developer have been “encouraging.”
Our conversations with the developer have been very encouraging...wants to respect the history of the space but also create a place for the next generation of performers. Has a history of creating affordable housing (though the Dew Drop will remain a hotel)— MaCCNO (@musicculture504) April 8, 2021
In further news for New Orleans’s live music scene, the City Council has also approved plans for the development of a new live music venue at Broad and Lafitte Streets in Mid City, to be called Dodie’s.
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