Mar 25, 201309:05 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Save Tujague's – Please

Steven Latter lived for Tujague's. Tragically he died recently; so too might Tujague's. So far what we’ve heard is rumors but one source is a person who usually gets the “New Orleans going to hell” rumors right. (He was the one who first tipped me off about the improbable rumor that The Times-Picayune was going to cut back to three times a week. “That can’t possibly be,” I thought.) Also bothersome about the rumors is that while no one is confirming them, no one is denying them either. We know this: Something is being considered that people are not going to like.

 

According to the rumors, the building on Decatur Street that houses the last of the original Creole Restaurants and the second oldest (after Antoine’s) restaurant in the city will be sold to businessman Mike Motwani who is known for converting businesses into tacky, touristy T-shirt and gift shops. Motwani supposedly will do the same, though the front part of the building, according to my source, might be used to serve fried chicken.

 

Preservationists and those who care about urban style and character have long despised Motwani’s businesses. Legally he has gotten by – further evidence that justice being blind isn’t always a good thing. (Besides the aesthetic considerations, another objection to Motawni’s businesses is that they are totally targeted to visitors further taking away reasons for locals to frequent the Quarter.)

 

Latter worked tirelessly to maintain the old restaurant’s character. He kept the tradition of serving beef brisket with horseradish sauce as part of every meal. His menu was classic old line. His bar was busy and, a significant sign, had a good following among locals.

 

According to the rumors, and some reporting by WWL-TV, while Latter owned the business, his brother Stanford owned the building and that’s where the problem lies. (Latter’s son, Mark, who is experienced in the business, runs the restaurant.)

 

Motwani has been in the news many times including in 2009 when he was accused of illegally installing ATM machines in downtown buildings. Coverage by Bruce Eggler of The Times-Picayune included this astonishing statement:

 

“Mike Motwani is not a good person. No one is going to deny that," structural engineer Roy Carubba told a city preservation agency.

 

Carubba, who said he has done a lot of work for Motwani and who was supporting his client's request to demolish a badly deteriorated Central Business District building, said he has often expressed the same sentiment directly to Motwani.

 

No one on the CBD Historic District Landmarks Commission spoke up to defend the Indian-born businessman.

 

Please Mr. Latter, keep the legacy of your brother’s restaurant alive. At the very least, don't let the builiding fall into the hands of those who don't give a damn about the character of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via email atgdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.

 

WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.

 

Reader Comments:
Mar 25, 2013 10:51 am
 Posted by  Libby

Please, please, please don't clost Tujague's.... Visitors from far and wide come to our beautiful city for the Local FARE....

So many of our PREMIUM Businesses are gone... Like the song says "Ain't there no more...." we don't want this to continue happening...

Remember WE MUST remember where we've been in order to know where we need to go"....

I'm calling to make my RESERVATION NOW....

Mar 25, 2013 10:55 am
 Posted by  New Orleanian at Heart

It would be a disgrace to dismantle another old line establishment in the Quarter...one that is referenced on the Cocktail Tour and other tours and one with real significance to the City. And to think that it will be replaced by another souvenir shop? Absolutely horrible!
I have visited New Orleans at least once every year singe 1995. I love your City, but I don't like when something like this happens (and yes, I miss the old schedule Times Picayune too! - that used to be my first source of information upon arrival!).
So, while I still see the City through tourist's eyes, I feel sad for the fact that something as historic and important to the Quarter as this may be gone.

Mar 25, 2013 11:08 am
 Posted by  vthomasjoh

Oh, that would be a travesty! I would think that the preservationists would step up on this one. Isn't that building/business "historic"? It was great always seeing him at Tujaque's--and I mean always. When I walked the French Quarter, I would see him either in the bar and the rear of the Dining Room. He was always pleasant. Upon hearing about his death on "Steppin' Out," I wondered if the family would give the same attention and love to the business that he had. Hearing that it might close is terrible news. The food and service were great and consistent. I certainly hope the restaurant survives. It would be awful to see its demise.

Mar 25, 2013 11:52 am
 Posted by  Diana M.

Please, please, please do not close Tujague's!! It was the first Creole restaurant I ever went to; as a visitor from Texas in the sixties, I felt this was the height of "fancy" restaurants! Its black and white-dressed waiters, the elegant drinks it served and the gorgeous bar were fabulous. I never forgot it, went back soon as an adult and have been visiting at least annually ever since. I love the spicy, ice-cold shrimp remoulade and think it is the best in New Orleans! This is such a lovely restaurant in such a great location. I don't think I could stand to see it turned into yet another disgusting souvenir shop. It seems some entrepreneurs are determined to make the most beautiful and unique city in the U. S. into a shrine to Chinese products. Please reconsider and help keep this icon in business as one of the few remaining Prix Fixe restaurants and lovely, never sleezy, bars in the United States. SAVE TUJAGUE'S !!!

Mar 25, 2013 06:46 pm
 Posted by  kittycat005

When ever I visit New Orleans Tujague's is one of my first stops. From what I understood,Steve's brother has had a buyer for the building for a long time. That until Steve retired he was not going to sell the building.

Mar 25, 2013 08:01 pm
 Posted by  Gretchen AP.

This is terribly sad to hear and deeply disturbing. if the rumors come to pass, it will be a true example of the worst aspect of New Orleans erasing a piece of its culture that once gone, can't be brought back. The city would be the lesser for it. It's not just about T-shirt shops and fried chicken - it's about the cultural soul of a place and what really matters. For a community that has lost so much, surely there is a better fate to be had for one of the city's oldest establishments than to become one more in a mind-numbingly endless sequence of cheap huckster shops all selling the same crappy merchandise and useless tourist baubles. That is not the New Orleans I know, nor one that I would want to know. Please SAVE Tujaques? Yes, by all means. Otherwise, I for one will probably never be able to walk down that block again.

Mar 27, 2013 09:20 am
 Posted by  ed1941@msn.com

I will never forget my parents treating me to my first of many meals at Tujague's in the 40s. I salivate thinking of that hot fresh French bread, and yes, the beef brisket and horseradish sauce were to die for! That alone was enough to bring me back many many times through the years. While in Tulane medical school, my brother and I ate there often. After marrying a New Orleans girl we continued our love fest with Tujagues. My grown children loved it too. However, Galatoires is still my favorite restaurant in the world. I live in North Louisiana but pray my New Orleans friends will find a way to say this historic and uniquely wonderful place.

Mar 27, 2013 11:40 am
 Posted by  uptown girl

This is a travesty!!! Absoutely cannot happen! How could it even cross one's mind to sell such an important piece of New Orleans history to create yet another place to purchase junk. We do not need trash, we need our history! Imagine closing Antoines? NEVER. Please New Orleans fight this monster! we must save our beloved Tujague's!

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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