The New Orleans City Council unanimously approved plans this week for a Mardi Gras krewe to transform a Bywater building into its headquarters, as envisioned, including zoning changes that will permit a restaurant with alcohol and live music, despite pushback by some members of the surrounding community.
The Krewe of Red Beans submitted a request for a zoning change for the building the group purchased in 2021, a former furniture store located at 3300 Royal Street (next to Pizza Delicious and Bratz Y’all). The proposal went before the city council on Thursday, October 6. Referred to as Beanlandia, the krewe wanted to change the building’s zoning from “Warehouse” to “Cultural Facility with Standard Restaurant,” as well as add live music as a secondary use of the restaurant.
An email this week from the krewe’s founder, Devin DeWulf, laid out the krewe’s goals: to create a kid-friendly, community-focused space “made for locals” that also serves as a “sustainable model of tourism” (DeWulf says tourism revenue will pay for kid programming and community initiatives). Long-term plans included a restaurant space on the second floor and a bar, as well as a 95-car parking waiver for the surrounding blocks. Finally the krewe wants to be able to host live music until no later than 9 p.m., the email says, as part of the cultural programming.
Typically, libraries, zoos, botanical gardens, and other educational spaces are designated as “cultural facilities.” As such, the krewe is proposing classrooms and a space for costume exhibits as part of its overall plans. The Krewe of Red Beans hopes to partially open Beanlandia to the public next year, with the goal of completing a renovation of the 25,000-square-foot building over five years, reports Biz New Orleans.
The krewe’s proposal includes plans to create youth programming for afternoon hours, weekends, and summers, and says that the building could function as a supply hub following emergencies. Dewulf, along with other Krewe of Red Beans members, are also the organizers behind Feed the Second Line, founded to feed the city’s culture bearers during the pandemic. The organization created a supply hub following the Arabi tornado, and most recently launched “Get Lit Stay Lit,” a program to help local restaurants get outfitted with solar power in order to better serve as post-disaster community hubs.
Still, the krewe’s plans have drawn criticism in the neighborhood. Those neighbors, who’ve created a website devoted to the topic and distributed flyers outlining their opposition, object to the zoning change for a number of reasons: “Alcohol next to the playground, unhindered live entertainment 5 days a week, more than a 1000 people nightly on top of 240 daytime visitors, and no parking,” the website reads.
The opposition also calls it “an ill-conceived scheme to appropriate, repackage, sanitize, and offer New Orleans culture” and states: “What New Orleans culture can certainly do without is saviors.” That specific statement seems in reference to Beanlandia organizers saying they want to use the facility to “fill a void” for kids and, according to the krewe’s email, help confront the “big issues” New Orleans faces, like climate and violence. Ultimately, in what the opposition calls a compromise, the Krewe of Red Beans withdrew its request to be zoned as a bar, sticking only with the restaurant (though technically, the restaurant will still be allowed to have a bar, according to Biz New Orleans).
Beanlandia will serve as the permanent home for the Krewe of Red Beans, which DeWulf founded 13 years ago. The krewe is known for costumes made with red beans, sewn into intricate patterns on clothing, or even made entirely from beans themselves. It holds a daytime walking parade in the leadup to Mardi Gras down Esplanade Avenue that lets spectators view the costumes close up, and is known for being particularly kid-friendly. In an email announcing the Council’s approval on Thursday, organizers confirmed there will be a restaurant and bar with live music five days a week, and added plans for a Saturday vendors market.
The email, which included fundraising plans and the opportunity for krewe members to become “Founding Members” of Beanlandia, also read: “Above all, Beanlandia will be a hub of culture. A bean museum that gives back, creating programming for children, teens, and the entire community.”