When the restaurant called Ted Brennan’s Decatur opened last summer, it signaled a new chapter for a family with a long history in the New Orleans hospitality business. Now that family is hoping to turn the corner and save the restaurant.
The French Quarter restaurant has been closed for two weeks, ever since a hard freeze caused widespread water issues around the New Orleans area. In a prepared statement, however, the owners of Ted Brennan’s Decatur confirmed Thursday that the restaurant’s troubles go much deeper than travails from the weather.
The statement, from siblings Bridget Brennan Tyrell and Teddy Brennan and their mother Ellen Brennan, described how a “ ‘perfect storm’ of uncontrollable circumstances severely affected the business’ finances and its ability to operate with confidence.” (See the full statement below).
That “storm” includes a looming eviction threat and financial woes complicated by the failure of First NBC Bank, they said. They also said their chef, Lazone Randolph, has been recovering from a serious illness over the past month.
“Of course, since the ice storm the restaurant could only use pipe issues and food spoilage as an excuse for so long, but their staff and customers deserve so much more — the truth,” the statement reads.
The owners said they hope to reopen in time for Mardi Gras.
“Ted Brennan's Decatur intends to reopen its doors as soon as possible and honor all reservations and private parties,” the statement says. “Their mission is and always has been to provide security for an unwavering staff and quality for its loyal patrons. Ted Brennan and Chef Lazone would demand no less.”
Ted Brennan’s Decatur opened in late August at 309 Decatur St. It is named for Theodore “Ted” Brennan, who for 40 years was one of the proprietors of the landmark Brennan’s Restaurant a few blocks away on Royal Street, along with his brothers Owen E. “Pip” Brennan Jr. and Jimmy Brennan. Eventually, though, the family lost Brennan’s Restaurant through a tangle of debt and litigation.
It was later acquired by restaurateur Ralph Brennan, a cousin from a separate branch of the family, and Ralph's business partner, local investor Terry White. They massively renovated the building and opened a new Brennan’s on Royal Street in 2014.
Ted Brennan and his family soon started working on plans to open their own restaurant on Decatur Street. In 2016, however, Ted Brennan died at age 68. His children and his widow forged ahead, describing their motivation at the time as creating a tribute to his legacy.
Ted Brennan’s Decatur is significantly smaller than the old Brennan’s on Royal Street. But it still is ambitious, covering 12,000 square feet across two floors and with seating for about 250.
The family leased the space from 309 Decatur Street LLC, a company held by the same family that runs Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, another local hospitality company.
In their statement, the Brennan family said their restaurant fell behind on rent only two months after opening. They said the landlord began eviction proceedings as early as October.
Plans for Ted Brennan’s Decatur were developed gradually, sometimes haltingly, over the course of three years, and in their statement the family pointed to their lender’s “constant delays in funding the project.”
They identified that lender as First NBC, which collapsed last spring and went into federal receivership. They said the bank’s failure complicated their efforts to get more financing to stay open.
In an interview, Bridget Brennan Tyrell said that after the bank failed, she and her brother invested the entire proceeds from their father's life insurance policy, about $2 million, into Ted Brennan's Decatur in order to get the restaurant open.
The Brennan family is a famous name in the New Orleans hospitality business, but it is one with distinct branches. By 1973 the family suffered a rift, centered around disagreements over the future of its restaurant business. That break has proved to be long-lived, and through the years it has led to litigation between different businesses led by various relatives.
One side of the family coalesced around Commander’s Palace, and the next generation from this branch went on to develop independent hospitality companies, including the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group and Dickie Brennan & Co. The other branch, which includes the late Ted Brennan’s family, retained the historic Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street until 2013.
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