Another Round: The Remiss Management of the St. Roch Market

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Last month, I explored St. Roch Market’s failure to provide affordable access to basic groceries. Will Donaldson and Barre Tanguis were identified as the duo behind Bayou Secret LLC, the city-designated master tenant of the historic building. I argued that St. Roch Market’s refusal to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards indicated the inability on the part of the business to serve the residents of the local neighborhood, 40% of whom live in poverty. Additionally,  I called into question the use of $3.1 million in Disaster Community Development Block Grants specifically designated to “help cities, counties, and States recover from Presidentially declared disasters, especially in low-income areas” on the grounds that the spending is emblematic not of recovery, but of systematic restructuring. In this second installment, I investigate the ownership of St. Roch Market to more accurately ascribe responsibility for the operation of the business and its questionable practices.


 

antigravity_vol13_issue7_Page_16_Image_0001 Will Donaldson being given the lease to the St. Roch Market came close on the heels of his failed bid for ownership of a separate city-owned property. As a founding member of Launchpad, an entrepreneurial incubator based out of the Warehouse District, Donaldson and his Launchpad business partners, Barre Tanguis and Chris Schultz, submitted a proposal in late 2013 to the City of New Orleans for the Louisiana Artworks complex. Their proposal was rejected. Less than two months later, Donaldson filed Bayou Secret as an LLC with the State of Louisiana. He is currently listed as the company’s registered agent and manager. Tanguis is listed as one of the company’s members along with two other members: Surin Techarukpong, a Birmingham-based restaurateur, and David Donaldson, Will Donaldson’s  father. In August 2014, five months after the LLC filing, Bayou Secret was declared by the City of New Orleans as the master tenant of St. Roch Market.

In near proximity to the date of that  announcement, four LLCs were formed directly related to St. Roch Market (St. Roch Forage, St. Roch Libations,  Arcadia Court, and Bayou Secret)  listing Donaldson as the registered agent. Besides acting as the managing  member of Bayou Secret, Donaldson appears to be in charge of two of the 13 businesses inside St. Roch Market, St. Roch Forage and St. Roch Libations (via The Mayhaw). Donaldson is the sole member of both companies, indicating his immediate involvement in the two ventures and their profits.

Bayou Secret forbids any of the St. Roch Market food vendors from selling alcohol. All sales of alcohol are made exclusively through The Mayhaw, the St. Roch Market bar (owned by St. Roch Libations). Donaldson uses one of his companies to enforce rules that allows for another of his companies to make money, restricting vendors from selling alcohol while monopolizing a typically large source of revenue for restaurants. To add insult to injury, the alcohol permit obtained by Bayou Secret is contingent upon the same food vendors divorced from St. Roch Libations’ profit.

Additionally, this sale of alcohol appears to be illegal. Bayou Secret’s Class AR (Restaurant) permit stipulates that it is specifically designated for “a restaurant establishment whose purpose and primary function is to take orders for and serve food and food items.” The Mayhaw bar doesn’t serve food or belong to a restaurant. If Bayou Secret were to obtain the appropriate permit for The Mayhaw, a Class AG (Bar) permit, they would be required to adhere to the rule of not permitting any person under the age of 18 years on the premises.

Either St. Roch Market is a farmers market with an illegal liquor license, or St. Roch Market is a restaurant paid for with federal recovery dollars illicitly allocated by the City of New Orleans. 

With the more appropriate Bar permit, Bayou Secret could technically apply for a Class AG-Restaurant Conditional Permit, which would allow The Mayhaw bar to operate as a Restaurant permit holder and serve alcohol with persons under the age of 18 years present. However, this Conditional Permit would still require The Mayhaw to meet the requirements of the Class AR permit holder between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.—to be a restaurant establishment primarily serving food, a qualification that The Mayhaw doesn’t currently meet.

If Bayou Secret were to posit that St. Roch Market is in fact a restaurant and thus the Class AR permit is appropriate, this would be in direct opposition to the publicized notion that St. Roch Market, paid for in large part with federal dollars, is a functioning market.  This would also call into question the severe misuse of federal funding used to pay for the rehabilitation of St. Roch Market: $3.1 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) spent in renovations. A document from rebuild.la.gov detailing $1.4 million in CDBG expenditures describes the St. Roch Market as “a project to restore the St. Roch Market on St. Claude Avenue to its historic use as a farmers market.”

Either St. Roch Market is a farmers market with an illegal liquor license, or St. Roch Market is a restaurant paid for with federal recovery dollars illicitly allocated by the City of New Orleans.

The city’s vested interest in the success of St. Roch Market is indicative of Mayor Landrieu’s particular vision of neighborhood revitalization. This vision may also explain the special treatment given to Donaldson and his business practices. St. Roch Market is prime real estate, located in an area referred to by the mayor’s office as a “Cultural Products District.” Bayou Secret’s monthly rent for the St. Roch Market is $3,500 (for the first three years, increasing to $6,500 by the end of the ten year lease), a remarkably low figure for an 8,600-square-foot building with over $3.5 million in renovations.

Sources (speaking under the condition of anonymity) revealed that the rental structure determined by Bayou Secret for St. Roch Market vendors is drastically different. Vendors pay a minimum of $150 per day for rent. With all vendors operating seven days per week, this means individual vendors are paying at least $4,500 in a 30-day month. The minimum rent Bayou Secret collects from eleven businesses comes to a total of $49,500. The monthly collective rent of eleven vendors, paying for individual stalls and the use of a collective kitchen, is at least 14 times greater than the rent Bayou Secret pays to the City of New Orleans each month for the entire building.

Regardless of sales, $4,500 is the minimum monthly rent for vendors. This figure can be even higher for vendors doing well, with some rents exceeding $10,000. A centralized point of sale system, powered through the software system Square, allows Bayou Secret to closely monitor all individual vendor sales and garner varying percentages of gross sales. Bayou Secret places higher percentages on lower earning vendors. Higher earning vendors pay smaller percentages, although they still pay more in rent than vendors earning less. The more a vendor makes, the more Bayou Secret collects. No ceiling is placed on this collection.

A single vendor, paying the minimum rent and a single full-time employee at the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), would need to spend $5,600 each month to cover these basic operating expenses. This figure doesn’t factor in the staffing issues related to the market being open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday with an additional hour on Thursday through Saturday, totaling 96 hours per week. The above figure of basic expenses also doesn’t include the cost of product or any other costs associated with the running of individual businesses. Considering the exorbitant overhead,  along with the lengthy business hours, it is uncertain how this could be a tenable arrangement for vendors. Nonetheless, Bayou Secret’s uncapped earnings facilitated through all sales occurring via a centralized system  ensure income for St. Roch Market’s management.

Bayou Secret’s point of sale system also raises serious questions about the legality of the sales tax applied to tax-exempt eligible products at St. Roch Market. Examples of products eligible for exemption within the State of Louisiana include coffee, cookies, and “potato chips and similar snack foods.” Last month, I purchased four unique items from four separate vendors at St. Roch Market, all of which were improperly taxed. These purchases were: a single bag of coffee beans ($14.95 plus a sales tax of $1.35), one chocolate chip cookie ($2.75 plus a sales tax of $0.25), a bag of “Dirty Chips” potato chips ($1.75 plus a sales tax of $0.16), and a bag of plantain chips ($2.25 plus a sales tax of $0.20). By law, these state sales tax-exempt purchases should have been taxed at 4.5% (in accordance with the Orleans Parish sales tax). All of these food items, considered eligible for state sales tax exemption, were sold with a tax of 9%.

As every sale occurs through a centralized system, all the money brought into St. Roch Market through purchases goes first to Bayou Secret, who then disburses funds to vendors. It is unclear as to why state sales tax- exempt food is being taxed or where the extra 4.5% charged to consumers is ending up. The uncertainty regarding this tax, along with an underhanded rental structure and a potentially illegal liquor license, raises questions as to what sort of business is being conducted in this city-owned property. Several requests for comment from St. Roch Market management were either ignored or denied.

Will Donaldson: Not just the president, also a client!

Will Donaldson: Not just the president; also a client.

Those curious as to where Bayou Secret might direct some of their suspiciously generated revenue need not look far beyond St. Roch Market’s front door. The large, blue, two-story building directly across St. Roch Avenue (at 2401 St. Claude) was purchased for $350,000 by Arcadia Court in November 2014. This past April, a letter written by Tore Wallin—the “owner’s architectural representative”—was distributed to residents of the St. Roch neighborhood notifying them “Arcadia Court LLC owns the building at 2401 St. Claude. We are planning to renovate the old historic building and open a restaurant at that  location.” The letter, a required formality  for submitting zoning adjustment applications with the City Planning Commision, extended an invitation to learn about the proposal and present questions or concerns in early May. The meeting location was listed as “Front  Porch, St. Rock [sic] Market.”

 Bayou Secret’s control of St. Roch Market might signify the most current brand of cronyism in New Orleans  government

The obfuscation in this notice is intentionally misleading. It fails to disclose that Arcadia Court features the same members spearheading the controversial St. Roch Market. Three people from the community attended the May meeting. The developers—Arcadia Court—are reported as being present in Wallin’s summary. In reference to a suggestion of two respondents, Wallin reported, “The developers were generally  supportive of the idea and mentioned they would reach out to the neighboring St. Roch Market.”

As previously stated, Bayou Secret operates St. Roch Market. Arcadia Court features all four of the Bayou Secret members as well as Kari Ayala, a New Orleans based real-estate broker. The LLC was formed in June 2014 and lists Donaldson as its registered agent. Perhaps if the residents were made aware that 2401 St. Claude was owned by the management of St. Roch Market, public response regarding the variance application would have been stronger. If St. Roch Market were widely embraced among the residents of the neighborhood, there would be no reason for Donaldson and his business partners to not be more transparent.

A month after St. Roch Market’s opening, a May 12 application was filed for a change affecting the zoning of 2401 St. Claude Avenue to “permit the renovation of a vacant building for use as a restaurant.” In the Board of Zoning Adjustments staff report from June 8, the project description states that the area around the property has “seen a recent increase in development” due in part to “the recent restoration of the adjacent St. Roch Market.” Further into the document is a statement echoing public sentiment of those disappointed in the finished product: “The St. Roch Market adjacent to this site was recently restored and is occupied  mostly by small restaurant businesses similar to a food court.”

To summarize the busy time period for Donaldson prior to St. Roch Market’s April opening: the formation of St. Roch Forage and St. Roch Libations (Donaldson’s LLCs) as well as the acquisition of 2401 St. Claude Avenue (purchased by Donaldson’s Arcadia Court)—all occurred within a ten day period in November. It seems safe to suggest that the concentrated business activity documented prior to opening— along with filing for a zoning variance  a month after the opening to permit a two-story restaurant across the street— indicates Donaldson’s anticipated financial reward from the lease handed to him by the City of New Orleans three  months prior.

Why Landrieu’s office or the New Orleans Building Corporation, the city agency overseeing city- owned properties, would allow Donaldson to profit so intensely from a project hailed as part of New Orleans’ revitalization process is unclear. Landrieu’s embrace of New Orleans as “a hub of entrepreneurship” may provide a clue. Bayou Secret’s control of St. Roch Market might signify the most current brand of cronyism in New Orleans  government, where smooth-talking techie-types with abstract credentials are awarded profit-generating toys built with millions of taxpayer dollars.

St. Roch Market is a classic bait-and- switch business model structured by Bayou Secret and personally endorsed by Landrieu, who went as far as to wear a St. Roch Market t-shirt at Jazz Fest and give special recognition to the project in his State of the City address  this past May. If St. Roch Market is, as Landrieu said, a symbol of New Orleans’ “rebirth and resilience,” a sober examination of these terms  is in order. If creating “something authentic” is predicated upon misuse  of federal funds, concentration of wealth, and capitalizing off of the credibility and tireless efforts of service industry workers, this authenticity isn’t something to be celebrated.

Walking into St. Roch Market, the intent of the business is written into the architecture. The building ’s interior design was overseen by Bayou Secret. The kiosk-like stalls lining the building and the lack of adequate space for retail testify to the failure of Bayou Secret to commit to serving the community as a bona fide market. The egregious planning decisions made by Bayou Secret have put vendors in the unfortunate position of being affiliated with insolent development. Bayou Secret’s model for St. Roch Market is supposedly based on incubating small businesses, specifically restaurants. However, the inequitable rental structure gouging the gross sales of vendors indicates business incubation is not Bayou Secret’s top priority.

The remiss management of St. Roch Market has made it evident that Bayou Secret’s regard for the backbone of New Orleans—the service industry—is little  to none. Considering that the livelihood of many New Orleanians is reliant upon this line of work, St. Roch Market being held up as an example of the “new New Orleans’ way” is ominous.

Jules Bentley contributed reporting to this article.

  • Gi O Neworleans

    Andru and Jules: You are my heroes, along with Dan and the rest of your krewe. Please go after the cozy relationship between New Orleans Buildings Corp and City Planning too.

  • kmsoap

    Beautifully written and impeccably researched. This is what investigative journalism should look like.

  • Great piece. Shared!

  • stephanie anders

    Y’all are showing the rest of New Orleans how investigative journalism is done. Bravo to raising the bar.

    • If he did investigate it, then he’s straight up lying. Why would anyone believe such an angry one sided take from an outsider? I am a vendor and his “facts” are mostly incorrect.

  • Jof

    Can the next piece in this series be an outline of what you guys think the St. Roch Market should have realistically and practically become. Not pie in the sky stuff but real world alternate ideas that would have been more representative of the neighborhood and would have been profitable even with Robert’s opening 3 blocks down in late 2016? I would really like to see someone present that info.

    • Kelley Williams

      My thoughts exactly and why they are out it why don’t they implement that theoretical plan in one of the many other dilapidated buildings filling this area? Come on guys, put your money where your mouth is. If the business plan you propose is so simply executed DO IT!

      • Blitzen1

        I feel this article is shedding light on an issue. The reporters are saying this market has opened and is operating against state/parish policy. I do not feel they are trying to reinvent this property, just letting readers and community members know what is going on by investigating through public records.

        • Jof

          A New Orleans business doing something seemingly shady and not having the right permits? Clutch my pearls! That has never happened in this city before!

          An investigative approach that is heavily laced with confirmation bias paired with hard opinions and one-sided framing devices still comes off as a grudgeful NIMBY diatribe. Calling out a business with a take down piece like this that has no named sources whatsoever is just kind of cowardly and mean spirited in my opinion.

          The whole alcohol license and tax issue could and probably are way less insidious than the article makes it out to be.

          And someone on Reddit made a very good point that the varying percentage of gross sales that they are taking from vendors via the POS system could very well go to pay overhead outside of rent. Vendors appear to only control the stand and not clean up, bussing, and misc. stuff.

          In the end, there are still more jobs for locals, I feel less like I am going to be beaten by a group of teens with baseball bats (happened 3 times last year) when walking down urquhart or marais streets, and I have a lot more/healthier/closer options for breakfast, lunch and dinner in my neighborhood. Again, not perfect by any means, but I live in the real world and realize that this dream of a place that looks like Dean and Deluca but sells $1 organic produce and staples cheaper than wal-mart is just that, a dream.

          • Blitzen1

            But the “dream” as you say was viable because the city is charging these guys very low rent. The renovations were done with federal dollars and community money. What I think you don’t understand is that we are shortchanging the people in this neighborhood and we are shortchanging ourselves. We deserve more rent for this particular place because this opportunity was given at a low cost to these people because it was supposed to aid our people. And I will tell you their sources: LA ATC and LA Secretary of State. They are not reporting anything but facts that they have researched. We all deserve better, we all are worth more than this. I can appreciate your sarcasm, but it really just sounds like complacency. These reporters are giving us the tools to ask questions. Let’s ask.

          • lunch at the market will run you $10-20, and arent particularly healthy. its not friendly to the neighborhood of working class residents.

            very friendly to AirBnB tourists who need a place to eat, tho.

          • publicspace

            kyron’s comments are on point and this article raises a lot of valid concerns as a starting point for further investigation.

            but the bottom line is that this building, just like the government dollars used to restore it, just like the neutral grounds, just like our schools, libararies, parks, natural resources and so on…is owned by the public for the public and we have a responsibility to make sure its development benefits all of us, especially when we spend so much of our public money. private enterprises have everywhere else along st. claude and the rest of the world to serve the most elite clientele their hearts desire. the idea of a publicly-owned market is a gem that was once a much greater part of this and many american cities.

            giving this up reeks of the same kind of attitude that continues to defend the return of golf – a toxic, flagging, and elitist industry – to the precious public land of city park***. that use too and its patrons can afford to go anywhere with their business, but they feast on the rest of the world then take our scraps. i would have preferred the market torn down or stripped to its bones and used as minimal, open-air stalls or just a continuation of the st roch park rather than being given over to this use. would our goverment have netted less money from either of these options? we couldn’t use the st roch market when it was abandoned, we can’t use it now, and the change it’s bringing to the neighborhood probably isn’t going to leave us with a place we can afford or want to be. when we fail to protect our public spaces those of us who can’t afford to move so freely are left with nowhere to go.

            (***i understand the golf courses are part of the park’s history…so is segregation.)

          • pinkeena

            Lunch there is no more expensive than lunch at Burger King. Or Subway. It is friendly to the neighborhood because many in the neighborhood are employed there. A farmers market is useless. We need a regular grocery store, not some place where people can get organic veggies and fish. We want community coffee and a can of beans. We want a plain old bunches of bananas. All this “we want a farmer’s market” is just a yuppified as some think the SR market is now. When i go to farmer’s markets in NOLA I sure as heck don’t see poor people there. I see yuppies. I see poor people at Walmart. Do you know what it takes to feed five children on minimum wage?

      • Kelley — this is a city-owned property. that means we own it. that means we have a voice and a say in how it’s operated. what was built, was not what as asked for or promised.

        • Kelley Williams

          Know what else “we” own? The Superdome …. maybe we should demand they serve more affordable snacks and accept SNAP at the Saints games.

    • Blitzen1

      I think they have shown us that a market that served the people of this neighborhood could have worked here. The problem with the new market is that it was supposed to serve the neighborhood, it doesn’t, and it is operating under ABC permits that should warrant fines for violations of policy.

    • Jof – simple. we the residents were polled by the city years ago. our answer was unified and clear — a seafood market. not exclausively retail prepared foods, but an actual market. there are such markets in many cities across the country, and they are separate than a grocery store and thus not incompatible w/ Robert’s.

      also, this other group of vendors had a much better vision — an actual market of indy vendors selling staples and provisions, such as bread, cheese, meat, seafood, etc:

      http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2014/04/business_leaders_withdraw_st_r.html

      • Jof

        Yeah, there were no guarantees attached to those polls. And those markets you are talking about ( Pike Place in Seattle, Eastern Market in DC, etc ) are HUGE. Far more sq. ft than the St. Roch Market. It just feels like the city picked the most economically viable option that was presented to them.

  • vavavampire

    This deserves a fucking award.

  • DanishPastry

    I commend your deep excavation of all matters shady in the city (I know you’ll get around to all of them eventually), of which this is an egregious example. Turn this whole mess over to the Inspector General and expose it to the light of day! Any individual can send a request to the IG hotline.

  • Neutral Ground

    Welcome to New Orleans! You have two choices: accept the alleged dealings of the current proprietors with the city administration or return to the carcass of a building that they restored. The only winners are the city government and the proprietors. This was never about the neighborhood or those living in a food desert.

    • M. BButler

      there are always other choices

      • NOLA_gal

        There are other choices. If the intent of the HUD funds were to help the neighborhood recovery, chances are there’s language in the city’s agreement to that affect that didn’t make it over into the master tenant lease. Maybe a bit more digging into the funding requirements is in order?

        • Neutral Ground

          I agree that there are other choices, but I contend that when the local govt is dealing with other people’s (federal) dollars that the intended recipients of the largesse are left out in NOLA. Here’s another example http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2015/07/charter_school_spending.htm

        • Blank Stare

          Yeah thats what I am saying. Instead of figuring out what actually happened we have an article that says something fishy is going with no follow thru just conjecture. I agree this deal and the market Don’t seem right especially if federal funds were used with a purpose but you can’t just say all this shit without proof or a real grasp of what happened.

    • Ralph McGinnis

      How is it a food desert? The food Co-op is practically across the street – and the Circle Food Store is a few blocks away. http://www.yelp.com/biz/circle-food-store-new-orleans-2

  • Comrade Wingtardd 5467p

    Ah but one bit is missing in this fine article, which is that many of the vacant lots in the still inexpensive upper ninth have been impressed into Kale growing service. All these Urban Farms popping up are a force multiplier in every one of these yuppie aggressions such as the new St. Roch market. The silly 1200 square foot farms produce a pitiable amount of food – just enough to service the burgeoning trendy restaurants everywhere. And they take up land that people could be living on. Gentrification’s Babysitters.

  • We moved out of the Marigny about a year ago and wondered what was gonna happen with the lease on that building. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. It’s heartening, at least, to see this piece so expertly skewer these crooks. Great work.

  • flyingblond

    I went t’other night from Metry just to see what it looks like after dark, ( Cooler then) and I found great parking- a decent chocolate ice cream cone- wonderful staffers to chat with- about $25 later- I sat at the bar and tweeted to a friend that we will need to try this place when she comes to town, even though it closes at 11- I saw multiple folks working like this is set up something similar to a food court- They should have to take SNAP if they are a market- the preserves and items for sale seemed reasonably priced- not unlike the French Market-redo.
    Hopefully, the Donaldson family entities- ( IS this the same real estate group?) get it together and include the locals- ( MEanwhile the locals are now all of these millennials from California who thought this area was always cool- Right behind St. Roch was another bar room looking place chock a block full of youngsters- and the street itself was well lit all the way to North Robertson…I was impressed- knowing when the lights go out- the “element ” are right there from Alvar/ Almonaster to take your stuff-
    I am conflicted in the actual use of the place- I heard someone was upstairs counting all the money- suppose it was the landlords they were referencing- I would not take a special trip from the burbs to return to this place- other than to hang out at that lovely Mayhaw bar-and wish it stayed open past eleven o’clock. Reasonably, I see why they close- it just is not a safe area- period-

  • Chad Kring

    It makes me sick to my stomach to read this article. This is typical Landrieu! Just like his father; caters to the non-tax paying crowd to ‘get the vote’. Then uses slight-of-hand techniques to reward his cronies. His new topic is all the Confederate monuments. He’s maintaining the typical ‘divide and conquer’ so his sister will be a shoe-in. Thanks much for the very detailed report. …will make sure this story gets around

  • HolyNOLA

    Slimy for sure, but the rents and lease stuff are typical. Percentages of gross sales have been included in retail rents for a long time. Lee Zurick should be all over the rest of this nonsense though.

    • yet it is notably absent in the city’s lease *to* the operator — why is that? why a flat $3500/mo, w/ absolutely no profit-clause, as is so common?

      • Jof

        Possibly overhead in addition to rent? Vendors don’t have to bus, do dishes, or clean the building it seems. It is very possible that this money goes to pay for the great deal of staff that the Market employed to do these jobs. I’m not the biggest fan of the current owners but this is just a witch hunt. And if I hear one more white kid that isn’t from hear talk about how this doesn’t do any good for the neighborhood I am going to scream.

  • Chillyblue

    White collar criminals continue to go unpunished for their greed, manipulation and corruption. A despicable scheme has been well exposed by this incredibly eye opening article. Pathetic mind boggling exploitation of neighborhood resources achieved in warped, convoluted and selfish ways.

    This way of conducting business is reprehensible and morally bankrupt. Shame on this group and on our mayor for his advocacy of such debauchery.

  • Chillyblue

    White collar criminals continue to go unpunished for their greed, manipulation and corruption. A despicable scheme has been well exposed by this incredibly eye opening article. Pathetic mind boggling exploitation of neighborhood resources achieved in warped, convoluted and selfish ways.

    This way of conducting business is reprehensible and morally bankrupt. Shame on this group and on our mayor for his advocacy of such debauchery.

    • NOLA_gal

      Reprehensible and morally bankrupt, but probably not criminal. Capitalism at its finest!

  • NOLA_gal

    Usually CDBG funding requires limitations on usage and profits – I’d be interested to see the lease the city signed with the master tenant versus the agreements they signed with HUD for the funding. Seems like the city might be in breach of their contractual agreements for utilization of those funds.

  • Blank Stare

    You bring up some good points. I think several of the points need more research. Sadly though you make various statements and assertions that clearly show bias and your desire to write a total hit piece. Do you have proof they refuse to take food stamps or will not? In the Nola.com piece the owners say they are working on it. You sure make it seem like they dont want to get SNAP approval. Also am I to be shocked they have applied for other projects and have been turned down. Seems to be in the article to paint a certain picture. Also is it so terrible that they bought a building to open a restaurant next door? I just don’t see a problem trying to make money.

    I do find the rents they charge ridiculous and greedy but I guess the vendors are able to pay it and turn a profit. If not they will leave. I find it hard to believe it’s a good deal for the vendors but that is there business not mine. The liquor licence is a concern but my guess there is a solution.

    Of course the federal dollars and the intent of the monies gives me pause. But guess what you don’t tell us if there proposal is vastly different then proposed to the city. You didn’t do the research why the city chose this instead of other proposals. In fact I have no idea if there were any other serious ones at all. Instead of going into details about how this all went down you just make up a story the mayor and administration are participating in cronyism. But in fact you have no proof, no evidence and offer nothing but you opinion to back this up. Reading this I have no idea how this really went down. Just that you have opinions on it and everyone has them.

    You put some research it to this but it’s clearly not enough for the reader fairly come away with and educated opinion. I will give you this it’s a good hit piece.

    • yes, there were other proposals, and they were good. ive spoken to them and they think they were stonewalled by the city:

      http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2014/04/business_leaders_withdraw_st_r.html

      • Jof

        Exactly how would the plan from St. James Cheese Company et al. have been any more representative of the neighborhood and better? Yeah, they said there would be a focus on affordability but Bayou Secret said the same thing.

        Those vendors were just as bougie and non-representative of the neighborhood as the current ones. Not to mention it would have been ran as a non-profit and employed a whole lot less people.

        “According to their plan, the market’s staff would be made up of a general manager, a produce manager, and a small staff of maintenance and floor workers.”

        • Yes, our contribution pays for the kitchen, bussing and dishwashers, night clean up, PR, management, utensils, disposables, utilities and the rest of the expenses it takes to run a venue of this size. If we didn’t feel like it was workable, we wouldn’t have signed up.

      • Blank Stare

        Ok so why were they stonewalled? How did this play out? Why did these guys get it. What thing or connection got them the lease. Did the city make it clear what was to be expected? If so was this in.line with the federal monies intent? If so was the proposal accepted based on a community development program and then was changed out from under the city.

        Just think there is way to little to paint these people in a bad light. I am talking Bayou Secret and the current city administration.. Come back to me when you find out what really happened and who is not living up to expectations. The city, Bayou Secret or both but this is an unfair article because you can’t tell me who did anything wrong and why. It would be fine but you said some things that are pretty negative and really are not backed up.

        How would you like someone to write this about you with such little substance to point at?

        • Thank you for you honest take. I am one of the vendors and there was no stonewalling. There were 3 interested parties and the other 2 backed out. Its simple. No special treatment or favors. It’s a straight up real estate lease agreemt with the coditions to make it a restaurant/ market. That’s it. I’m not sure where all of this misinformation started snowballing but it’s time to get the facts out there. We are all working hard to make this a positive place for the neighborhood and the city.

    • Jof

      Exactly. This is not a well researched piece. They went to a few public records websites and did some very basic primary research with automatic attachment to causation being corrupt rather than digging further. There are no named sources and to do a hit piece like this with NO QUOTES is just unprofessional.

    • Digitalkiwi

      The piece appears to me to be a delivery of well-researched facts, with full disclosure of sources to back it up. The bias is not in the vessel, but more from the opinion formulated of the reader. The writer appears to give little personal insight aside from their impression of the facts’ meanings. If there is bias here, I’d say it’s on your side.

    • Blank Stare

      Really what sources does he have to confirm that anything was done wrong with the award of the lease. Am I missing something? The writer provides zero sources or facts regarding that. In addition saying he refuses to accept SNAP is based on what? Could be a million reasons but this article states the owners refuse to do it. Also it’s clear they try to shape the story in the article. Please tell who are what is the source telling him what the rent is or is not.

      Man you use the word source and fact quite liberally. I think a lot of these things could be issues but there is no source or proof. The basicly say he got the lease based on cronyism. Based on what?

  • Jimmy S.

    Can’t help but wonder if none of this would be open for debate if the project had been all privately funded? Then business owners would be able to (I believe) freely choose whether they want to accept SNAP cards and the customers who use them. Once government money gets into play there are all kinds of spoons in the pot to get it.

    • jexni

      Very little would have been built or rebuilt in New Orleans post Katrina without Federal money and/or Federal tax credits, none of these projects would be feasible with only private investment and lots of them are going to fail even with all of the government help. Most of these mixed income properties are going to fail and tax payers will be holding the debt just like we do we Six Flags.

  • Roger

    What did the office that issued the permit say about this? Seems they would hold valuable information. Perhaps there is an allowable variance that you were unaware of.

    • Blitzen1

      I was wondering that too. I am pretty sure that the Alcohol and Tobacco issues the permits and maybe they look at the entire building as one restaurant?

  • great piece. the sweetheart deal of the decade — insane profits, w/ no clause tying the city’s rent to the profit the operator makes, which would be an expected clause and exactly what Bayou Secret does w/ its own vendors.

    what a scam.

  • Robyn Ryan

    Thank you.

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  • My name is Donna Maloney and I am an actual vendor at the market. I have been reading this material for 2 months now and I feel that it is my turn to speak out.

    Please keep in mind that an outsider wrote the Antigravity editorial. The author is a recent transplant and almost all of the information he has posted is inaccurate. I spoke with the author directly and he chose not publish any of the positive information that I gave him.

    Remember that all of the negative posts affect 12 small businesses. TWELVE! You say it’s not personal? It’s personal!!!! We are all family owned, talented, and working around the clock to produce quality food as affordably as possible. We are working towards finding out how we can do that better every day: holding community events, canvasing the neighborhood and attending neighborhood meetings.

    Most people who boycott the market don’t come here. They don’t see the fresh fish, meat, cheese, veggies and fruit. They don’t look at the vendors shelves to be able to notice our beans, rice, noodles, flour and sugar. You want a market? Then come and support our market and give us a reason to supply more.

    The facts that are being quoted about “mismanagement” are false. There was no grant money given to the owners. The renovation of the building was completed by the city with 3.7 million dollars partially from FEMA, as many buildings were. The buildout of the market was funded entirely by Bayou Secret and they went through the normal channels as would any other business. This is a straight real estate transaction and nothing more. This was the third proposal for the building and two other groups turned down the opportunity. That is what it is.

    Bottom line. This is a LEGITIMATE, MORAL, and ETHICAL business. The owners were accepted because of their track record of starting small businesses and making them successful. We are still a new business, not even 3 months in. We have a lot of details on our agenda and we are fine-tuning it every week.

    Please check your facts before you make a decision as big as posting inaccurate hate about MY business, my fellow vendors, and staff. It is all public information. I employ 9 people, and the market employs many more. These are neighborhood people. I try to make my place of business a warm, loving and welcoming environment for everyone who works here and comes here.

    • Jof

      Thank you! And thank you for putting yourself out there and trying to make St. Roch a little sweeter!

    • Another thing I forgot toinclude is that we do take SNAP. I told the writer that but he still printed that we don’t.

      • pinkeena

        If that is true, then the rest of the facts in the article should be questioned.

    • eugene

      The things you are saying about accepting SNAP aren’t exactly correlating to what the owners were saying in terms of SNAP being accepted at the St. Roch Market.
      (http://www.nola.com/dining/index.ssf/2015/07/st_roch_market_owners_respond.html).

      Also, people with SNAP wouldn’t be able to purchase hot food items that the vendors serve with SNAP. Not to mention, with SNAP benefits being cut so much, they wouldn’t be able to afford the fresh produce, fruit, and other grocery items that is offered at St Roch. Maybe you should do more research or even talk to the owners about the things they say they offer before you critic something?

      Also as far as my opinion is concerned the St Roch Market is as local as any of the tourist trap restaurants in the French Quarter. Its prices are outrageous and don’t speak for the direct community it is in but to tourist and recent transplants. Maybe if your rent prices were lower, you would be able to serve to the direct community? Or maybe that is something that the vendors/owners/you don’t want ? No where in your critic of the article do you mention or address the locals in that community and how the prices are keeping them out, but you ironically pride yourself on being a local-family run business?

  • pinkeena

    We don’t need a farmer’s market. We need a damn grocery store where one can walk in and buy a can of Blue Runners, tampax, a quart of half and half that doesn’t cost 7 bucks, maybe a pack of 1.50 spaghetti, etc. Instead of spending time being pissed at saint Roch market and pretending a farmer’s market will help poor people, think about what we really need. And it isn’t a place that just sells fish and vegetables. We’ve lived without a proper grocery store since August 2005. Do something about that.

    • Ralph McGinnis

      I’m working class – and I had no problem with having been taught to cook and shop.

      • pinkeena

        From Louisiana? Where we all – rich or poor – are taught to cook by our moms and grandmothers. Not hippies.

        • Ralph McGinnis

          I learned how to cook from BOTH. We all have something to learn.

          • pinkeena

            Exactly. It’s patronizing to tell people from NOLA they need to learn how to grocery shop and cook. Only someone who isn’t from here would come up with that insulting idea.

        • jjazznola

          Who are these “hippies” that you speak of?

          • pinkeena

            You might want to research the etymology of the term ‘hippies’ to understand.

    • jjazznola

      the hippy farmer’s market? Are you serious?

      • pinkeena

        What is the difference between white yuppies and the new white hippies? Very little. One group wants organic whole foods. One group wants organic cooked foods. And we still don’t have a god damned grocery store where we can buy a can of blue runners and a pound of Community Coffee. But the fight between the two groups has been amusing.

  • jjazznola

    There may have been some shady deals going on but I think the place is great. I’m so happy that over the last few years NOLA is finally moving ahead with more diverse food offerings. It’s long overdue. I notice not a single positive thing mentioned in the article, all negative. That is called a hit piece.

  • pinkeena

    Reading more of this guy’s stuff, along with his friends’. There is nothing more absurd than a bunch of white people who have moved to NOLA being advocates against gentrification. It just doesn’t get any more ridiculous. YOU ARE gentrification. Do the right thing and let a local have your apartment.

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