Plaq. eateries are starved for businessJun 18th, 2010 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
Tears choked up Cheri Pete as she started to address the Plaquemines Parish Council at last Thursday’s meeting. She owns Maw’s, a restaurant in Boothville that is about to close its walk-up window.
“We have enough trials right now trying to keep our doors open,” Pete told the council.
She was speaking in favor of denying temporary permits for new eating facilities.
Two were on the agenda.
Both were locals with established restaurants in Port Sulphur, Kerry Encalade, owner of Subway Sandwiches and GiGi Dinette, manager of Ann’s Restaurant.
Encalade was in attendance.
“I’m not trying to take any business from any of the people down there,” he said. In fact, southern Plaquemines was the location he had originally wanted to establish his shop. Subway instead chose the Port Sulphur location with the stipulation that Encalade could build a second location on the first site after six months in the Port Sulphur location. The permit is listed as temporary due to the fact that he must operate out of a trailer while a permanent building is under construction.
His permit was passed.
However, Dinette’s permit filed under “GiGi’s Restaurant,” was denied.
“It is my understanding that this is purely temporary,” said Permits, Planning & Zoning superintendent Mike Metcalf.
Issues also arose with zoning. GiGi’s Restaurant would be in a trailer. The zoning of the intended location was a mobile home zoning area. Some council members had reservations with allowing a commercially used trailer within the residential nature of the zone.
The two restaurant applications and Pete’s heartfelt plea brought discussion of how the BP oil spill and the company’s response is affecting local restaurants.
“I am not overwhelmed with business,” said District 9 Councilwoman Marla Cooper, owner of Riverside Restaurant in Venice.
“After the tents came in, we’re extremely slow,” Cooper’s husband Acy added. “We have hardly any business.”
Temporary food vendors are popping up to take advantage of the influx of people in southern Plaquemines, many without a permit, Metcalf said.
“We’re getting all sorts of reports,” he said, including a mobile hot dog stand that is never in the same place twice.
Metcalf reported that Domino’s Pizza called his department inquiring about permits.
Some councilmembers asked about the possibility of denying permits to out-of-parish restaurateurs who will only be in Plaquemines for the oil spill crisis.
“A government can’t make an irrational distinction,” said Mike Mullen, a parish attorney. “Someone from out of town or out of country is suspect class.”
BP has a food tent which provides its clean up crews free meals.
Several Belle Chasse catering companys such as Lil’ G’s and Meme’s New Orleans Café are being contracted, but many restaurants on the southern end have not.
Pete said she was contacted but told BP representatives that she could not fill daily orders of more than 1,000 sandwiches without upgrades to her facility. She has not heard from BP since.
Robyn Parker, whose mother Rosina Copeland owns Watusi’s in Empire, told the council that her mother was not even contacted.
District 7 Councilman Jay Friedman suggested that BP place smaller orders with several restaurants.
Robert Bruant, a BP logistics director who was present and waiting for a separate item on the agenda, addressed the issue.
“We are using quite a large number of local vendors,” said Bruant. “We are trying to stay as local as possible.”
“BP has lied to us since the top of this,” Parker disagreed. “If they did not contact you (the parish government), what makes you think they’re going to serenade the local businesses.”