Opinion
 

Is Frenchmen still cool — or just a Bourbon Street for hipsters?

For 30 years, Frenchmen has been the street with the beat.

Carlos Casas / Flickr

For 30 years Frenchmen has been the place to tap your toes.

One of the most striking examples of the balance between continuity and change in New Orleans has been the meteoric evolution of Frenchmen Street over the past 30 years.

In 1984, two music clubs were emerging as hot new venues in the 500 and 600 blocks. The Faubourg, at 626 Frenchmen (soon renamed Snug Harbor), offered straight-ahead and experimental jazz—from Ellis Marsalis to Astral Project. At 532 Frenchmen, the Dream Palace, with its psychedelic décor and galactic ceiling mural, catered to the rock crowd, most notably through now-legendary Saturday night Radiators gigs.

What brought Frenchmen Street to critical mass as the live music mecca it is today probably was the liquor license Adé Salgado got in the late ‘80s as he converted his coffeehouse into a club called Café Brasil. The shuttered space now sits like a ghostly guardian of legend amid the cultural explosion it helped to set off.

A nocturnal stroll down Frenchmen Street 40 years ago was a quiet and lonely excursion, even on a Saturday night. LaBorde’s Printers, the Swiss Confectionery, the Diamond Grid Battery auto shop — all would be shuttered for the night. Today? Rip van Winkle would find himself in an alien world indeed.

The birth of what we imagine today when people say “Frenchmen Street” is evidence of how rapidly change can happen and, more interestingly, how change is portrayed, in New Orleans. The very first platitude it shatters is the old one about a New Orleans supposedly “resistant to change.”

The notion that New Orleans resists change is rooted in what is sometimes called “Americanist” rhetoric — a tendency to see shortcomings when New Orleans is compared with other U.S. cities. The “resistant to change” rap is laid on us when we don’t uncritically accept the latest national trend, be it a riverfront expressway, high-rise waterfront housing, or placing sharper limits on the rights of African-Americans in the first decades after America purchased Louisiana in 1803.

One political option is cast as “progress” (usually in an economic sense), while the other —reluctance to tear down old houses, for example, or to adopt American-style racism in the 19th Century — as evidence of our “backwardness.” But obviously these are just rhetorical tricks that should not be mistaken for accurate history.

We might do well to remember the incident Frenchmen Street’s name commemorates. The five Frenchmen executed at the foot of the street in 1769 had instigated the first anti-colonial revolution in the Americas, eight years before the 13 colonies came up with the Declaration of Independence. In Louisiana, the enemy was the Spanish crown, not the Court of St. James, and the goal was creation of an independent state.

Slave insurgents weren’t any more successful, but that didn’t keep them from dogged acts of resistance throughout the antebellum era.

After the Civil War, multi-racial delegates meeting at New Orleans drafted the most radically far-reaching of all Reconstruction state constitutions and elected black men to statewide office. The idea of a New Orleans “resistant to change” obscures our ability to recognize a very different narrative of New Orleans, as constantly and radically in a state of change, not only socially but politically.

New Orleanian skepticism toward “progress,” as defined in most of America, can’t be reduced to “resistance to change,” but it is one of the city’s special assets. New Orleans’ “exceptionalism,” the sense that we are something special or, in any case, a city well outside the “Americanist” mainstream, provides a priceless counterweight to arguments rooted in the brand of American exceptionalism, currently embraced by conservatives. New Orleans-style exceptionalism means little in a global context. It exists as a challenge — and invitation — to America, and offers a different, more critical perspective for considering American culture and society.

The Frenchmen Street boom is also evidence of how exceptionalist rhetoric is applied, ironically, to explain (and defend) instances of sweeping change of a particularly American cast — such as the hypergentrification that has swept the old creole districts since Katrina.

The economic rationale is deemed insufficient to justify change in New Orleans, and that’s a unique aspect of local political culture that we should all be proud of. Changes, if they’re going to be welcomed, need to be reconciled with notions of local identity — not just whether something is “good business” or “the American way,” or “best practices,” or whatever.

So Frenchmen Street proudly asserts itself as an expression of a uniquely and deeply New Orleanian spirit, a utopian evocation of an ineradicable New Orleanian ethos, with appreciation of live music as its cornerstone. The most recent Frenchmen club, Bamboula’s, makes the will to embody this ideal explicit, with its eponymous reference to the historic Congo Square song and dance genre. The relocation to Frenchmen of the Louisiana Music Factory record store is further testament to the street’s status as the city’s music mecca. The HBO series “Tremé” might just as well have been named “Marigny” for its many Frenchmen Street scenes.

Frenchmen Street, on just about any night of the week, is a loud and proud symbol of New Orleans’ re-invention of itself as a holy city for live music and the culture surrounding it (including cocktails, food, fashion statements, etc). But then many American cities, especially in our region, boast “night life” districts with abundant live music.

What makes Frenchmen Street a more exciting total experience than similar thoroughfares in Nashville, Memphis, or Austin, is the same thing Bourbon Street has going for it: public drinking. It turns a street rife with music clubs into a unified festival experience that takes root in the public space and thus defines an entire area — and its residents — rather than just being a handful of dots on a map. Every other attribute is secondary but still meaningful.

Frenchmen Street offers a wide range of music styles, many rendered with great talent, most for free or cheap (better for consumers than musicians). Frenchmen Street goes late, but so does the party in other urban music districts — though, again, our liberal alcohol laws, allowing for bars that never close, give us the edge if a never-ending party is the yardstick.

What’s more unique is how Frenchmen starts early. Early gigs broaden the pool of performers as well as audiences, and steer the appreciation of live music (and drinking) away from the limiting category of “night life” and into the unashamed normalcy of daylight. Again, the way all of this activity spills into and occupies the public space depends upon the nuts-and-bolts legal glue (public consumption and legalized loitering) that makes the magic — and the music — possible.

The Blue Nile heats up.

Scott Myers / Flickr

Tim Robertson and Matt Perrine, of Rick Trolsen's group, Neslort, bring the Blue Nile to a boil.

If Frenchmen Street is the temple complex of New Orleans music, more than ever that makes it a temple to New Orleans itself. The city has been famously musical for centuries, a reputation that hinges on the abundance of live music venues, street music, patronage and participation. Previous loci have included Congo Square, the old French Opera House, Storyville or South Rampart Street in the early jazz era. But never before has devotion to an extensive culture of live music been as central, as foundational, to New Orleanian identity as it is today.

This can be seen as an offshoot of a growing “touristic” culture, where locals begin to perceive and experience their hometown in the same way tourists do. Or it can be thought of as the consummation of practices long since baked into the city’s culture, and well-suited to championing by New Orleanians seeking to preserve a sense of the city’s — and their own — exceptionalism.  “Outsiders” — transplants more than tourists — have always played a role in noticing and valuing local cultural features deemed unique.

Bourbon Street continues to be the city’s most iconic street — a competition with Frenchmen as instructive as it is pointless. We’re talking about a competition between symbols, not business zones. While the ϋberhip among us like to demean Frenchmen as the “New Bourbon,” it’s more accurate to say that Bourbon Street was the old Frenchmen.

Not so long ago, Bourbon was the place for live music, what with Louis Prima, Al Hirt and other legends holding forth.* It combined vice (striptease) with live music in a way that invoked a lighter shade of  Storyville, continuing to feed America’s sense of New Orleans as a place that parties in an exceptionally transgressive manner.

Frenchmen Street has succeeded in severing sexual vice from live music, an achievement that says a lot about New Orleans and America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. There’s no real competition between Bourbon and Frenchmen because they cater to different audiences, people of differing social and cultural backgrounds (as well as those enlightened cosmopolitans able to enjoy both).

People with a greater degree of cultural capital — both locals and visiting aficionados —prefer Frenchmen. The ultra-hip have concluded, of course, that Frenchmen Street is already too well-known to confer “underground” cred, so they’re branching down St. Claude and pooh-poohing the poseurs left behind. Thus we see again how the anxiety of authenticity has become more acute than ever in the post-Katrina boom years, even if the hipster compulsion for what French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu calls “cultural distinction ” has degenerated into just another consumer niche.

The comic irony is that Frenchmen Street today is nothing like it ever was before, so it can’t be passed off as the continuation of a traditional use of the area. We need to accept that the explosive downtown cultural renaissance that Frenchmen Street presides over is the result of a romantic vision of what New Orleans should be, more than a continuation of how it has been. Frenchmen Street represents a recreation of New Orleans in a particular version of its own image. Change, yes, shaped by myth. As naturally New Orleans as vegan gumbo and milk punch daiquiris.

C.W. Cannon teaches English and New Orleans Studies at Loyola University.

*Correction: The sentence, as first published, ended with the word “nightly,” which has been deleted. While Hirt had his own club, Louis Prima did not. When in town he often appeared on Bourbon Street at the Shim Sham Club owned by his brother Leon Prima.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    What makes Frenchmen Street a more exciting total experience than similar thoroughfares in Nashville, Memphis, or Austin, is the same thing Bourbon Street has going for it: public drinking. Frenchmen Street offers a wide range of music styles, many rendered with great talent, most for free or cheap (better for consumers than musicians). Frenchmen Street goes late, but so does the party in other urban music districts — though, again, our liberal alcohol laws, allowing for bars that never close, give us the edge if a never-ending party is the yardstick.

    PUBLIC DRINKING (INTOXICATION) gives NOLA an EDGE over other cities?
    WRONG.

    Go Cups (i.e. Public Intoxication) actually makes New Orleans broke and poor via the Free Lunch Marketing. Here’s why.

    When you see packed crowds OUTSIDE, that means they are not inside the bars/clubs buying drinks, food or tipping. And of course, not paying a cover charge to pay for musicians. Moreover, visitors and tourists can buy one hurricane or a beer at a cheap to-go bar and walk up and down Bourbon St (or Frenchman) and people watch and sight see without entering a single bar and pay a cover charge.

    Below are some numbers of “boring Jefferson Parish when compared to festival and party happy Orleans Parish.

    Advocate: Last year, for example, Jefferson generated $310.7 million in sales taxes, excluding taxes generated from the sale of food and drugs, automobiles and hotel and motel rooms in the parish. Orleans Parish brought in just $162.9 million, but that includes every category, meaning the gap between the two parishes is even greater.
    http://bit.ly/1eCPYPg

    Ever wonder why NOLA Musicians LEAVE New Orleans? It’s cause New Orleans gives away its music and partying for FREE on the public streets like Bourbon and Frenchman. Something this author and all of Louisiana should think about if it wants to financially survive in the future.

  • Chris Thompson

    Eh, I think you’re UTTERLY missing the point here, AhContraire. This is an article about culture, not about the economy. In addition, the specific sentences you are highlighting are about culture, and have nothing to do with economic factors. One would be a fool to argue the economic validity of these things against other cities.

    One more thing: The “bars” on Bourbon and Frenchmen (which is a lot of different bars to be lumped into one stereotyping statement) are not “doing terrible financially”. Speak with their owners. I know many of them and do frequently. They are all doing fine, paying their employees and turning a nice profit. So…not sure what your point was meant to be there.

  • manuel martinez

    yes! Mary Howell is the true Heroine is this SET, she is the one with made all possible back in 1991. thank’s Mary. Cheers!!!

  • nickelndime

    FRENCHMEN DESIRE GOOD CHILDREN: Actually, New Orleans is marketing, and hoping to sell, its culture, and I am not denigrating the concept, so can we really say that culture and economics are mutually exclusive? KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD: Still selling culture, different packaging.

  • nickelndime

    FRENCHMEN ST. The useable part stops at N. RAMPART, that’s another historical story, and picks up again well after that, after Gentilly Boulevard, but not musically, and some might say not culturally either, but there’s always room for discussion.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    1. The “culture” must take into account the economy. If the culture cannot support itself financially, how can the culture really exist in the future?

    2. You only need to LOOK at the visitors/customers are and where they “actually” spend their time and money. If you see tourists on the street, that means they are NOT spending money inside the club/bar, regardless of what the “club/bar owners” have said to you.

    3. No Lines waiting outside the club/bar door and “barkers” on Bourbon St are ACTIONS seen, and are a lot different than a club/bar owner TALKING about doing well financially as a club.

    In other words, don’t be surprised you are hearing more

    BIG TALK in the BIG EASY.

  • Brooke

    Pretentious.

  • Alan Maclachlan

    St. Claude from Elysian Fields to just past Press St. is the next “Frenchmen.” Look at all the clubs and theaters where the young, tattooed outsiders hangout, and that is the surest indicator.

  • slidelljackson

    Austin does not allow public consumption of alcohol. According to your argument, this should translate to higher incomes for musicians. I lived there and played music for years and can tell you that the same complaints about money are just as prevalent there. There may be some correlation as you suggest, but I doubt if it’s a slam dunk.

    However, there are musicians who make quite a bit of money busking in the Quarter. It is true that there numbers are few, but I know for a fact that this phenomenon does not exist in Austin, just to cite one example.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Street Performers pay ZERO taxes and hurt other businesses in the French Quarter by drawing away tourist who would otherwise window shop or enter into the shop.

    Musicians are always going to complain because of this:

    A decade of iTunes singles killed the music industry – Apr. 25, 2013 – http://cnnmon.ie/1k9LjAO

    $7.1B in USA / 330M = $21.5 dollars per year spent on music

    ——– or ———

    IFPI’s ‘Recording Industry in Numbers’: U.S. at $4.4 Billion, Germany Overtakes U.K. | Billboard – http://bit.ly/1gBhVEM

    $4.4B in USA / 330M = $13.3 dollars / year spend on music

    There are too many musicians fighting for less and less disposable income. Music, as well as street performances, are not a necessity like clothing, food, shelter, education, transportation, etc..

    Next, much of the “MUSIC” now-a-days is not that good and not what people want to pay for.

    Just look at Bayou Boogaloo. It’s FREE and the headline act is “Big Freeda”, a gay hip-hop artist?

    Who is really going to pay for that? Apparently not that many people since Bayou Boogaloo is FREE and sponsored on tax payer dime and donations.

    At least in Austin you were able to live there for a few years, it’s just a matter of “how good of a musician you are”. The one’s that work at and are also are good at it make at least DOUBLE what they can in NOLA as New Orleans is simply poor and also allows FREE MUSIC and PUBLIC INTOXICATION.

    Regardless, no customers inside club/bar means no money from cover charges for musicians, no matter what you or other musicians complain about.

  • slidelljackson

    I agree that it is hard to make a living as a musician, and I doubt if anyone would argue that point. However, it’s always been that way, and the fact is that there are probably more opportunities for artists to take charge of their own careers and avoid the traditional music industry altogether by self-releasing music directly to fans as well as other means.

    Big Freedia played at Jazz Fest where people shelled out for tickets. I don’t know how relevant that is, but it makes as much sense as your Bayou Boogaloo reference (which was, by the way, fantastic with the music that I saw). I wouldn’t pay to see BF, but plenty of people have. Also, I don’t see what his sexual preference has to do with it, but you brought it up.

    Austin musicians make at least “DOUBLE” what NOLA musicians make? Can you back that up with any actual proof?

    Finally, I very much doubt that street musicians hurt any live music establishments. Typically, people only spend a few minutes listening and then they move on to other activities, some of which I assume might be going to clubs or other businesses.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Austin musicians make DOUBLE from “corporate” gigs as there are corporations in Austin. Not so in New Orleans as there is only Entergy and where there are just clubs/bars that are half empty, yet crowds right in front of the club on the street with their go-cups. (That right there should convince you of the financial failure Bourbon St and public intoxication, yet there will be some in denial.)

    Yet, just look at all the musicians who have left New Orleans in the past, Louis Satchmo Armstrong, Connick, etc. By the way, Gallup: 40% would Leave Louisiana if they could! http://1079ishot.com/40-of-people-in-louisiana-would-leave-the-state-if-they-could-poll/

    There are no good jobs for people in Nola, hence, how can they afford to pay for live music?

    Yet, is performing at Jazz Fest all that big of thing?
    Coachella Valley Music n Arts Festival: $125/day; Chicago Lollapalooza: $100/day; NOLA Jazz Fest: $50/day, earlyBird http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/home/8943851-172/no-jazz-fest-ticket-pricing

    As far as I can see and according to the article above, Jazz Fest has a hard time getting good acts and filling slots.

    Likewise, for Big Freeda, Have you seen Big Freeda’s videos? Isn’t he one of those New Orleans Ambassadors that promotes Family Values?
    http://t.co/SBRjOmeHwX

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Uhhh….not so fast…..you see those young, tattooed outsiders? They are the ones protesting gentrification since the “RENTS” are going up and up. And according to Campenella, what you see today, is just a “stage” of genetrifcation.

    Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans | Newgeography.com
    http://www.newgeography.com/content/003526-gentrification-and-its-discontents-notes-new-orleans

  • kmsoap

    Being involved in the arts has always been a lifestyle choice. It’s often a choice that has severe economic restrictions. Au Contraire, I suspect you are not artistically inclined.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    So are you saying “arts and music” careers don’t “generally” pay well? That would mean that the CULTURE of MUSIC and ART isn’t a economy that can sustain New Orleans, correct?

    Hence, things like the CulturalEconomy.org and slogans like “In Louisiana, Culture means Business” by the Louisiana Tourism people is just BIG TALK as culture contributes so little to the artists’ and musicians’ bottom line in the first place?

    And if artists, musicians, hospitality and the service industry workers can’t even make a decent wage to support themselves, much less a family, what’s the point?

  • kmsoap

    As I figured. Let’s start at the top. “Sustain” means different things to different people. To some people it means a new car or a designer handbag. To others it means having accessible cultural wealth.
    There is a lot of money made in the cultural economy, but not much of it filters down to the actual culture bearers. It’s kind of like trickle down economics….not much really trickles down.
    Nobody said people cannot support themselves. That’s total embellishment on your part. Life is full of choices, and not all happiness or sustenance is derived from the almighty dollar. Some people live a minimalist lifestyle that is rich in other ways. The biggest danger to the culture bearers of this city is the rapid rise in real estate prices. It is out of sync with the rest of our economy. Of course, that would be an economic red flag anywhere, and we have already seen what happens in other places when that bubble bursts.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Shouldn’t “sustain” at least mean “basic needs” like food, water, clothes, shelter, education, and in below sea level New Orleans, transportation????

    The so-called “Cultural Wealth” you speak about was not what anyone was thinking about when Hurricane Katrina hit, and it’s almost June 1, the start of hurricane season.

    Artists and musicians aren’t the ONLY ones who want to do things that don’t pay the bills.

    I am pretty there are lots of HOBBIES that also don’t pay the bills and lots of people would like to spend the rest of their lives doing their hobbies, whatever that may be.

    Those that sacrifice their “hobbies” actually pay the bills of many of these artists and musicians via art and federal grants and host of other stuff while the artists and musicians produce almost ZERO, hence, the 50% below poverty level of musicians in NOLA.

    But guess what? American is 16 Trillion in debt, cost of food, living, you name it, is going up and up and soon “artists and musicians” will have to face the music.

    How ironic?

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    There is a lot of money made in the cultural economy, but not much of it filters down to the actual culture bearers.

    Do you have any proof there is a lot of money to be made in the cultural economy, as isn’t that “Discretionary income”, the money after all the important stuff is paid off?

    Discretionary income is disposable income (after-tax income), minus all payments that are necessary to meet current bills. It is total personal income after subtracting taxes and typical expenses (such as rent or mortgage,utilities, insurance, medical, transportation, property maintenance, child support, food and sundries, etc.) to maintain a certain standard of living.[6]It is the amount of an individual’s income available for spending after the essentials (such as food, clothing, and shelter) have been taken care of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disposable_and_discretionary_income

    And then to say that “but not much of it filters down to the actual culture bearers. It’s kind of like trickle down economics….not much really trickles down. is to say there is a lot of money spent on say music in the first place, YET, from the aforementioned post, only like $22/yr is spent on music. That’s like one lunch and one dinner.

    IF the money were to ACTUALLY TRICKLE DOWN, look at the $22/yr that the average American is currspend n music

  • kmsoap

    You’re still missing the point. Everyone’s idea of “basic needs” is different. If you read carefully before shooting off a response, you will see that I mentioned NEW cars and DESIGNER handbags. I did not say people did not need some kind of transportation or a bag for their things. That mall consumption urge you keep touting in JP just does not resonate with the creative community, but you are so conditioned to it that you did not even notice the difference. Trust me, if there was a huge market for consumer trash and trinkets, there would be people providing it in the same quantities that you have in JP.
    You also obviously have no idea how the granting cycles work. Just like the tourism industry or any other economic engine, very little grant money trickles down to actual culture bearers. Much of that money goes to support museums and other physical infrastructure that impacts a very small percentage of the creative community in New Orleans.
    Many creatives also work additional jobs to make ends meet. If someone makes a creative lifestyle choice, that means they may be your server at Ruth’s Chris instead of dining at the next table or delivering carryout for the local restaurant. What concern is that of yours?

  • kmsoap

    You’re lobbing softballs. I have no idea how much the “average” consumer spends on NASCAR or golf or knitting or anything else. Averages don’t work very well when discussing passions. We all have different passions, thus there is a wide range of individual spending of discretionary income.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Trust me, if there was a huge market for consumer trash and trinkets, there would be people providing it in the same quantities that you have
    in JP.

    Not sure what you call trash and trinkets, but let me point out the French Market on North Peters, i.e. the French Trinket… literally, you know the place that is subsidized by the city just like the artists in Jackson Square with below market rates for renting out spaces in the perhaps the most valued and historic area of Orleans Parish.

    Ever notice there are LOTS of tourists walking in the French Trinket, yet do you actually see and hear the cash registers ringing? I don’t and should any of us be surprised why the cash registers are not ringing? Reminds me of the Bourbon St. There are lots of people on the street, YET no lines waiting to get inside and barkers outside trying to get people to come inside.

  • kmsoap

    LOL…you picked the wrong person to lay that routine on.
    Actually, the Flea Market portion of the French Market is the only part of the French Market that makes money for French Market Corporation. The vendors there subsidize Café du Monde and the city owned Pontalba Building. Rents in the Flea Market are the highest rent per square foot in the entire French Quarter, meaning the entire city.
    I’m not sure where you are getting the idea that nothing is sold there. Sales tax figures say otherwise. Market vendors are required to submit their sales tax reports. If they do not, they lose the ability to rent a space. Because of this requirement, the City Department of Revenue has stated that they have the highest retail compliance rate in the city.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Below are some numbers of “boring Jefferson Parish when compared to festival and party happy Orleans Parish.

    Advocate: Last year, for example, Jefferson generated $310.7 million in sales taxes, excluding taxes generated from the sale of food and drugs, automobiles and hotel and motel rooms in the parish. Orleans Parish brought in just $162.9 million, but that includes every category, meaning the gap between the two parishes is even greater.
    http://bit.ly/1eCPYPg

    The vendors there subsidize Café du Monde and the city owned Pontalba Building. Rents in the Flea Market are the highest rent per square foot in the entire French Quarter, meaning the entire city.

    RATES -> http://www.frenchmarket.org/sell-it-at-the-market/

    I think the above are DAILY rates indicated by M-F and Sat and Sun.

    Daily Parking appears to be more than these rates.

  • kmsoap

    Those are 6′ X 8′ spaces, and there are hundreds of them in the market. Many vendors take more than one.
    I’ll do the math for you. A space on the A row costs $23.52 per square foot per month or $285.25 per square foot per year. Mind you, these are retail spaces without bathrooms, except for the minimalist public restroom that services hundred of vendors and their staffs and customers. In fact, there are no mechanicals, limited electrical and THERE ARE NOT EVEN ANY WALLS. Please find me a comparable real estate investment anywhere in the city. Trust me, I will snap it right up.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Isn’t “Parking” like $20 to 30 dollars per day or more in the CBD and French Quarter area?

    Hence, couldn’t the City make more money just by converting it into a parking lot as the City or the non-profit wouldn’t have to pay for electricity and all the overhead with running the French Market?

    They could put a double level parking lot and dress up the outside to blend into the historic architecture and tourists wouldn’t notice, yet couldn’t City make a lot more money in just parking fees and have a lot less overhead in “running the market” i.e. insurance, maintenance, water, restrooms, garbage, janitorial, local and national advertising/marketing by the French Market, Board Members, day-to-day management, and French Market Corporation Staff. (Note: Just because there are no “walls” doesn’t mean there are no expenses.)

    I personally don’t see a lot of sales, hence very little sales taxes generated, so the $23.52 sq/ft / month and the $285.25 sq ft per year from rent is small compared to say if each booth sold $600/day and at 9% tax rate that would be like $54/day in sales taxes
    as opposed to a wild guess of what it could be now like $250/day then that would be like $22.5/day in sales taxes.

    Just look at the list of prohibited items.

    Currently the items considered “moratorium items” are as follows:
    Belts
    Mass produced jewelry
    Sundresses
    Mass produced souvenirs
    Sunglasses
    Cell phone accessories
    T-shirts
    Lighters
    Clothing
    Handbags/Luggage
    Hats

    The list above shows there is a problem in the “quality” and the type of products sold at the French Market, but just one visit to the French Trinket could have shown anyone first hand.

    And does the French Market, a non-profit, pay property taxes?

  • kmsoap

    The Market is managed by a public benefit corporation, but the city owns the property. Hence, no property taxes. However, the property originally part of the Mint property and was deeded to the city by the feds for use as a public market. If nothing else, using the property for anything else would instigate an extended legal battle that the city is likely to lose.
    Parking at the lot at the foot of Elysian, closest to the Market, is hourly, but roughly $12 per day. Although the lot fills at peak times, there are usually spaces available there, thus the demand for an additional lot is questionable.
    Of course, none of this has anything to do with Frenchmen Street, except for the fact that there are numerous writers, musicians and other culture bearers that also vend there. We probably ought to have better manners and quit hijacking this post.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Don’t malls, such as Lakeside Mall and other demand a “percentage rent” or a “percentage of sales”? From what I read, the French Market’s Flea Market doesn’t require a “percentage rent” but at other locations they may.

    Hence, the $23/sq ft per month is the final total,, whereas other malls require also a “percentage of sales” on top of the rent per sq ft per month you mentioned.

    I don’t want to hijack this post either, but talking about coolness, hipsters and CULTURE, not to mention how the author said that “public intoxication” is what makes the French Quarter’s Bourbon St and nearby Frenchman St different and better than other music meccas had to be addressed.

    IMHO, Cool and Hip is not going to matter if the City is bankrupt. Just looking at Bourbon and Frenchmen and all the buildings and businesses around those two streets and all tourists see is unrealized potential (i.e. Many ask, “How can this gem be such a gutter?”)

    Most of these local musicians and artists in the French Market and Frenchmen Street are only “creating” stuff for themselves and satisfying their needs, they could care less about anyone else. e.g. many local musicians only listen to their music, never to their listeners’ feedback.

  • kmsoap

    Malls provide walls. French Market shops…you know, the ones in actual buildings, with commercial leases….pay a percentage. The Flea Market is a day market. Stalls are not permanently assigned. In other words, different people vend there every day. Day markets do not, as a rule, charge a percentage.
    So, when was the last time you actually talked to a tourist? Or even observed one? They are enjoying their time in New Orleans, which is why so many are repeat visitors and more keep coming. You should try it some time.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    The French Market is right next to the river and the FQ, and probably has the best view and location in the city.

    If Tourists really enjoyed their time in the city AND are “repeat visitors”, why did the Hotels impose a SELF-TAX for more national advertising? You would think after 30 years of tourists enjoying New Orleans “CULTURE”, why wouldn’t the NOLA Hotels be filled to capacity like say Walt Disney World?

    - Hotels agree to higher tax to boost New Orleans’ tourism advertising. – http://bit.ly/1tmuBDQ

    Many Nola tourists are POLITE as they are visitors and describe their stay with words like “great”, “lively”, “unique”, “colorful”. Yet, “talk” is not the same as “action”. Anyone can give lip service.

    Plus, if Nola tourists were so in love with the city, why haven’t at least a few of the business executives visiting Nola for the last 50 years setup shop in and around the French Quarter? Just look at Chiquita, they left 40 years ago and only returned cause of the $4.4M for the move PLUS $11 million in performance incentives over the next 10 years. If the FQ, French Market, Bourbon St and Frenchmen St was so great, why the need to give so much money to a huge corporation to get them to come back? The same goes for the movie industry and Hollywood South. Why the need for such huge movie tax credits if the “culture” was so great?

    Just look at all the buildings in around FQ, Bourbon St, Frenchmen St, all decaying, vacant, falling apart, etc
    Even the Riverwalk, JAX Brewery and the Mill House have been historically shopping disasters. Canal Place isn’t exactly doing great either. And then there is the World Trade Center (WTC). At the foot of Canal St and nothing to show for it except a run down high rise with almost no tenants.

  • kmsoap

    You’re trying to impose your JP shopping culture on New Orleans. That’s why JAX, Riverwalk and Canal Place (as well as Mall of America in Minnesota and other destination malls) fare poorly. Who wants to go on vacation to buy the same things they can get at home, then pay to ship or fly them home?
    You are so right. Talk is not the same as action. I’ll ask again.

    So, when was the last time you actually talked to a tourist? Or even observed one?

  • 6th Ward Transplant

    You’re a complete nut job. NOLA’s street musicians bring crowds which in turn patronize bars, shops, and local hotels. Our vibrant streets are one of the reasons I moved to this city a few years ago.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Patronize the bars, shops and hotels??? Surprisingly, that’s not true and a lot of BIG TALK.

    Advocate: Last year, for example, Jefferson generated $310.7 million in sales taxes, excluding taxes generated from the sale of food and drugs, automobiles and hotel and motel rooms in the parish. Orleans Parish
    brought in just $162.9 million, but that includes every category, meaning the gap between the two parishes is even greater. http://bit.ly/1eCPYPg

    The streets, Bourbon and Frenchman Streets, are very very old and hence, VERY NARROW streets in the first place. So the amount of people you see just isn’t a lot to begin with, but it seems packed.

  • http://www.brottworks.com/ Andy Brott

    It’s sad so many get so fired up on Campanella and go cups, and so few do so little to stop SB469- But my words now are hypocrisy, so…
    Yes- 5/4′s of us are bad at fractions, but these #’s and descriptions are a fun way to track the “G” word at work- go to-
    https://www.airbnb.com/s/New-Orleans–LA–United-States?guests=2&room_types%5B%5D=Entire+home%2Fapt&room_types%5B%5D=Private+room&room_types%5B%5D=Shared+room&sw_lat=29.82824733732348&sw_lng=-90.16749009952548&ne_lat=29.981587541405123&ne_lng=-90.04046068058017&zoom=12&search_by_map=true
    Then set the maps and settings- to see how these new rentals match perfectly were much real estate has rapidly risen.
    A law is only as good as enforcement, so the illegal rental market keeps realtors happy, but will help ruin our diversity make us even more tourist driven- and were are following San Francisco and others with rapid price rises and housing shortages. Alas I’m no “expert”, but I fear Freret is next, and I hate the patchouli rue taste to vegan “gumbro”….
    Best from 5110 Freret St.
    Andy Brott

  • Loye Ruckman

    For those of you who don’t already know, AhContraire is a troll who frequents several local websites. He seems to be obsessed with posting anti-New Orleans diatribes. Don’t feed the troll.

  • nickelndime

    I love FRENCHMEN ST – it is all lit up, but not with JAZZ. Why, just yesterday at 3 in the AM, the street was alight with blinding blue lights, white unmarked vehicles, and flashlights – do you get my drift? Pardon my French, but this city is a ####IN’ mess. I will get my own hose, thank you very much, when and if my home catches fire (and gawd knows it will when I have to rely on candles because ENTERGY takes 5-7 days to restore electricity – if you are not in the right GRID). I will NOT call the NOPD – even when someone throws a brick at my head – (which has happened!) for honestly, on this side, you can trust a criminal to be a criminal, but with a cop, you just don’t know. Now, let’s talk about the voters in this gawd4saken, noman’sland called New Orleans – on the other side! And as far as anybody calling anybody else a troll, that’s personal, and SteveX2, I am asking that you should look into this. I may not agree with what someone says, but damn it, I agree with his/her right to say it!

  • Scott Eustis

    I just miss the faubourg center.

  • Alan Maclachlan

    They are simultaneously gentrifiers and opponents of gentrification since many of them live North of St. Claude, which used to be %100 Black. But, the clubs–Siberia, the Hi-Ho, Shadowbox, Allways, etc., are what will make it what it will be. It so happens that I also am a fan of Frenchmen Street, but I can see the movement away towards a new hip mecca, and in my opinion that lies dowh St. Claude toward the Bywater.

  • Alan Maclachlan

    All gentrification is just a “stage.” What was shabby becomes chic, then passe’, then stagnant and finally shabby again.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Wouldn’t you say The French Quarter / Bourbon Street’s “shabby, stagnant” stage has been around for like 200 years?

    If you check out Richard Campanella’s history books, it seems the French Quarter has always been divisive, some love it, some hate it…Hence, it’s really been shabby and stagnant if the FQ has been so divisive.

    But this time Orleans Parish is on the verge of bankruptcy…not to mention a list of environmental factors that are worse than it was 200 to 300 years ago.

  • catindahood

    Yes the street musicians hurt musicians, employees and club owners by attracting crowds outside rather than in thier bars. So these bands basically take over public space and compete with tax paying businesses. The bottom line is this is illegal and should be stopped. But in NOLA does not matter how illegal something is and how much it hurts the city and those who invest in it, cops cant be bothered to enforce the law

  • catindahood

    then why are all the bar owners and muscians who play there againts it? Are they stupid?

  • slidelljackson

    “All the bar owners and musicians” are against it? Really? Every single one of them without exception? So someone who stands and watches a brass band on the street never goes into a club and buys drinks or pays a cover? I know quite a few musicians, and I’ve never once heard one of them bitch about street musicians. There’s room for all, and the presence of buskers is a great thing about New Orleans.

    What kind of city do you want to live in anyway? You can go to any other city in the country and live a sanitized, commodified, mundane existence with an absence of street life. But I do not believe that’s what most of us here want. Honestly, you sound like you don’t even like the city that much.

    Trot out some more statistics to prove…what? That it sucks here? If you really think that someone makes a decision not to go to Cafe Negril or The Spotted Cat because they spent 10 minutes listening to a band outside then you are out of touch with what is happening. I sure as hell hope that your vision of New Orleans never becomes true. Street musicians are a threat? What is the matter with you?

  • catindahood

    So rules dont apply in NOLA, you think thats what makes the city what it is? No that is what makes the city impossible to live in at times. Enforcing rules and laws is not going to destroy the culture of NOLA. that is an idea that took root in the 70s as the city descended into kaos. Prior to that when my mother was growing up here the city did not let anything go.

    And take a look at Bourbon, lack of enforement of rules in killing that street and some of the rest of the FQ. T-shirt shops are illegals, oh we cant enforce that, it would hurt the poor business owners, criers outside of bars and strip joints – illegal, oh you cant enforce that, horrible, canned and cover music blasted out into the streets, illegal but we cant enforce that.
    bad musicians playing on every street corner, gutter punks with unvaccidanted dogs taking over entire blocks, beggars at every street corner.

    Years ago NYC cops and city officials transformed Time square from a dangerous place full of strip joints, porno shops, bums, beggers, squatters and criminals into a fabulous space

    How did they do it, enforcing rules. Yeah its not as ‘authentic’ but its better for law abiding citizens

    get the pictureloud music projected problem

  • Craig

    “PUBLIC DRINKING (INTOXICATION)”

    WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But then, you should be used to being wrong. Equating drinking with intoxication is effectively saying that ANYONE who lifts an adult beverage to their lips is an alcoholic. That’s such a silly thing for you to claim that it makes the rest of your trolling post not even worth a glance.

  • Craig

    True. It’s more productive to argue with a brick wall. And the brick wall won’t get its ego enlarged with each exchange.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    What is your definition of “intoxication”? Is it the legal limit like in determining DWI? Is so, there are many states that are lowering the Blood Alcohol Level.

    And, what was the reason why you drank alcohol the very first time in your life?

    And if you don’t remember that, why do you need alcohol just to say “hello” to someone you are attracted to?

  • Craig

    In light of the tragedy that took place in Santa Barbara last week, I feel like I understand people like you a little better. You’re desperate for attention that people won’t give you in real life so you spend your life trolling the web, making ridiculous assertions, offensive accusations, and in general making people wonder what’s wrong with you.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Who is desperate for attention? It would seem all the ALCOHOLICS on Frenchmen and Bourbon are desperate for attention as they can’t seem to say “Hello” to someone they are attracted to.

    YET, how do you solve your anxiety/fear problem? Just like everyone else that is afraid of public speaking.

    PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

    In public speaking, you have to practice. Ever heard of TOAST MASTERS? It’s helps you speak publicly.

  • slidelljackson

    I never said that “rules don’t apply.” If you actually read anything I wrote, you would see that. But I do not think that street musicians are the scourge that you and the other person on this thread contend. We have a vibrant street culture. Lots of cities would love to have that. I’ve also noticed that no one has really take the time to answer any of the questions I’ve posted that contradict your point of view. I’m through wasting my time on this thread, and I think I’ll go play a few tunes on Royal Street instead.

    As far as t-shirt shops and all that…it’s not relevant to what I was talking about.

    Finally, I never find New Orleans “impossible to live in.” If I did then I would leave. Have you ever considered it? Sounds like you’d be happier somewhere else if happiness is possible for you.

  • http://www.brottworks.com/ Andy Brott

    I’m calling BS on both sides- take it down a notch…
    as both sides love this place enough to be rambling and bitching back and forth without looking for solutions. A rule is only as good as enforcement, and selective enforcement eventually equals corruption so my BS call for FIXES NOT BITCHES!!!!
    Best from Freret,
    Andy Brott