Government & Politics

Strike up the band: Bacchanal scores parking waiver, as permit tussle nears resolution

"Cool as heck": A comment filed in support of Bacchanal at the city hearing. (photo: Karen Gadbois)

By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff reporter |

Patrons, neighbors and employees of Bacchanal, the ultra-hip Bywater nightspot, turned out in force for this week’s meeting of the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Bacchanal, at the corner of Poland Avenue and Chartres Street, an area zoned for light industry, has been in business for over 10 years, growing from wine shop with light food offerings, to a full-tilt food and wine establishment with live music on the back patio.

On any given evening a food truck would appear near an opening in the patio area to offer light fare while the permanent kitchen was under construction.

The unique food service even inspired a scene on the HBO series ‘Treme” with well know chef Janette Desautel cooking out of the back of a truck.

The good times ground to a halt last summer when a neighbor’s complaint led to an enforcement action that determined Bacchanal was not properly permitted.

By December, after much to and fro with the city, the food and bar service was restored, but to revive the music, owner Chris Rudge was told that he’d need a waiver from the requrement that he provide 37 parking spaces – the topic of this week’s hearing.

In an impressive show of local support, over 20 speakers lined up to speak on Rudge’s behalf.

The comments ranged widely. One neighbor rhapsodized about the club, saying it has brought “safety, friendship, music, twinkling lights and cheer.” Another neighbor, friend and occasional employee of the club blamed last summer’s enforcement action against the club on a neighbor whom he described as a “myopic juvenile transplant tattoo artist.”

Landlords who own adjacent housing called the business a popular draw and tool for promoting their rental properties.

There were no speakers in opposition.

The speakers prevailed and the board voted unanimously in favor of allowing the parking waiver.

Reached by phone at Bachanal, sometime employee Ralph Schumaker said there are a few details to attend to before compliance with city rules will be complete but that the club is confident the music will be back  “within two weeks.”


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