The streetcar line taking shape on North Rampart Street is expected to be a boon for nearby businesses. Until it’s finished, however, the heavy construction along its future route is causing some headaches, and it’s convinced one prominent restaurant to close, at least temporarily.
Marti’s Restaurant, at the corner of Dumaine and North Rampart streets, is taking a “summer break,” confirmed restaurant representative Max Edelman. The owners will use the down-time to conduct renovations at the property.
“The winding down of convention season and the construction of the streetcar, which will be a big benefit to Marti’s when complete, presented the opportune moment to finish refurbishing the property and consider a renovation to the second floor of the restaurant for additional seating,” Edelman wrote in a statement.
The Regional Transit Authority is building a 1.6-mile extension of its Rampart Street streetcar line, which will continue along St. Claude Avenue to Elysian Fields Avenue. Construction is projected to wrap sometime in the third quarter of 2016, according to an RTA spokeswoman. Beginning this week, work has closed the intersection of North Rampart and Canal streets; it’s slated to remain closed for a month.
One block away from Marti’s, the bistro Meauxbar is dealing with the same traffic issues from the streetcar work. But here, owner Robert LeBlanc said he hasn’t considered any reduction in hours.
“It’s a little slower than last summer, but now we see people coming in maybe a bit later after the traffic dies down,” he said.
This week, the restaurant is starting a new happy hour to lure customers in earlier. Beginning on Thursday (July 16), and continuing daily from 5-7 p.m., Meauxbar will serve half-price beers and select cocktails and wines by the glass for $5, plus a seasonal carafe of punch for $7.
Meauxbar will also expand its hours in August by adding Friday lunch, which LeBlanc said regular customers have requested for a while.
“We’re using the construction to double down,” he said.
Some of the work on tap for Marti’s could include a balcony bar and a second-floor room for private events. Local construction executive Joe Jaeger opened Marti’s in the fall of 2013, along with Patrick Singley, proprietor of the acclaimed Uptown restaurant Gautreau’s. Singley, who served as a consultant, left Marti’s in March.
That opening returned to commerce an elegant restaurant with a long history in New Orleans dining. It was named Marti’s after the Creole restaurant that was a focal point of French Quarter social life and the New Orleans arts community in the 1970s and 1980s.
The original Marti’s was opened in 1971 by Martin Shambra, who offered a different take on New Orleans fine dining for that era by going more casual than the French Creole stalwarts. One of its prominent regulars was Tennessee Williams, who lived just across Dumaine Street for a spell in the 1970s.
The old Marti’s closed in 1988 and was reopened by chef John Neal as Peristyle in 1992. When Neal died three years later, his protégé, Anne Kearney, took over and proceeded to build its stature to the top tier of New Orleans restaurants. In 2002, she won the James Beard Foundation’s award for best chef in the Southeast. In 2004, Kearney moved back to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, where she now runs Rue Dumaine Restaurant, the name a clear tribute to Peristyle’s location.
Chef Tom Wolfe took over Peristyle in 2004 but closed it in 2009, and it had been empty until 2013.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.