Ten food and drink vendors at a downtown New Orleans food hall, Pythian Market, are facing uncertainty after the building’s owner moved to evict the market for failing to pay more than $2.5 million in back rent, reports the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. The food hall’s vendors, which include longtime food truck La Cocinita and newer additions like Let Us Feed U, say they haven’t received eviction notices themselves but are uncertain of their future at the hall past the beginning of December, when the eviction is set to take effect.
Pythian Market was the second of two food halls to open in New Orleans in 2018 as the fancy food court craze peaked, attracting an entirely local lineup of kitchens like Central City BBQ, Eat Well, 14 Parishes, and 1000 Figs. It takes up the ground floor of a historic building on Loyola Avenue — originally built in 1908 by a Black fraternal organization called the Grand Lodge Colored Knights of Pythias — that was purchased by a trio of local developers in 2014. One of those developers, ERG Enterprises, became the building’s primary owner, and leased the space to co-developer Green Coast Enterprises, which owns and operates Pythian Market.
Green Coast executive and Pythian Market co-owner Jackie Dadakis tells the Advocate that they had been working with ERG to catch up on back rent, which had not been paid in full since “the early days of the pandemic,” and so were “shocked” to receive an eviction notice earlier this week.
ERG says that it doesn’t intend to shut down the food hall or evict the vendors. The duo behind Pythian Market vendor Let Us Feed U, Sarthak Samantray and Aman Kota, tell Eater that they are waiting to see what happens with negotiations. “We love the market and the people who come to see us every day. So we would like to definitely stay here,” they say. La Cocinita, one of the original Pythian Market food hall vendors, told the Advocate it hopes the vendors “who are committed to the food hall and everything we have put into it will stick around and work together with ERG.”
Despite the proliferation of food halls in U.S. cities over the last six years, New Orleans didn’t necessarily embrace them with the same fervor. St. Roch Market, the city’s first food hall, opened in the Marigny in 2015 with 13 vendors but has since seemed to struggle to keep stalls filled. Another downtown food hall that opened around the same time as Pythian Market, Auction House Market, shut down earlier this year. In that case, the building’s owners brought in a new food hall operator, Jamal Wilson, who opened the Hall on Mag, New Orleans’s first Black-owned food hall, in August 2022. The Hall on Mag is part of Wilson’s plans for expansion throughout the Southeast, which includes the opening of two food halls in Atlanta.