Land Use

Star turn for Central City bar – but can it still operate legally as the joint it's long been?

Bean Bros. Corner, as captured in a drive-by for Google Maps, is a neighborhood hangout that has operated for years, but without proper licensure.

By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

And this week the award for most creative argument in support  of a zoning decision goes to attorney Ed Washington.

Washington’s mission was not a simple one, but he had chosen to accept it. The goal: to get the Board of Zoning Adjustment to bless plans that would allow a Central City bar – Bean Bros. Corner – to reopen under new management.

After all, the joint had operated as a bar for years under a zoning variance. That would ordinarily mean the variance could be extended.

But there was just one problem: The bar had operated openly but illegally. The former proprietor had neglected to get a liquor license all those years he was slinging 40’s at Bean Bros. Corner.

The building owner, an elderly gent named Horace Bean, was present for the BZA deliberations. The bar’s former operator was not. He passed not long ago, precipitating the struggle to succeed him.

Key question: Would an unlicensed bar really be a bar at all, in the eyes of the BZA?

The establishment has been dolled up for appearances as LaDonna Batiste-Williams' lounge in the "Treme" TV series. Photo by Anthony Turducken.

Here’s where Washington, the lawyer, got creative. Not only was Bean Bros. Corner a bar, he declared, it was a famous bar, an iconic bar – a landmark! As proof he mentioned the bar’s ongoing star turn as a location in HBO’s “Treme” TV series. It’s the watering hole called Gigi’s (not Bean Bros. Corner) that’s run by LaDonna Batiste-Williams.

BZA members were apparently persuaded by this  intersection of media magic and liquor license sleight of hand.

They voted to allow the bar to continue operating.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that the BZA had voted to defer action.

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • jeffrey

    I also think “it was on Treme” is kind of a stupid argument. But I will never understand the enthusiasm for shutting down bars in New Orleans.

  • Jennifer Farwell

    The enthusiasm is often related to a preference not the hear gunshots or see blue lights streaming through your neighborhood. Bars in NOLA can be bad, bad business and we have far more than the national average.

  • Jack

    I believe it was quite a clever argument…Jennifer has no idea what she is talking about but it can’t be helped…people in New Orleans don’t realize the root of the problem…it isn’t bars idiots!!!