There will soon be a new name serving the beignets and café au lait in City Park, and it’s a familiar one.
Café du Monde has been awarded the contract to run a beignet parlor in the park’s Casino Building, replacing its historic rival, the Morning Call Coffee Stand.
While Morning Call had run the concession there since 2012, the park this year put the contract for the location out to bid. At a meeting Thursday of City Park’s board of directors, Café du Monde was named the winner.
The timeline for Morning Call to close and Café du Monde to take over is still to be determined, a park spokesperson said.
The change means the Morning Call brand will soon have no home, at least for now. Earlier this spring, Morning Call closed its longtime location in Metairie, near Lakeside Mall. However, Bob Hennessey, who runs Morning Call along with his brother Mike, said they intend to reopen elsewhere.
“We’re looking for a new home. Morning Call is not going away,” Hennessey said. “City Park was great for us, but when one door closes, another opens.”
The new lease in City Park is for 10 years and raises the minimum rate for the concession to $10,000 a month, plus a percentage of its revenue.
Three companies answered a request for proposals issued by City Park: Morning Call, Café du Monde and Café Beignet, which operates three locations in the French Quarter.
Morning Call submitted the highest bid, promising a marginally higher percentage of revenue than its competitors. However, Morning Call missed a mandatory pre-bid meeting; as a result, City Park's management recommended the next highest bidder, which was Café du Monde.
"It has to do with following the bid specifications as they were laid out," City Park CEO Bob Becker told the board. "Morning Call was not considered responsive."
The board's vote for Café du Monde was unanimous.
Prior to the board's vote, Bob Hennessey argued that his firm was only late for the pre-bid meeting, though the session had adjourned before any representative of Morning Call arrived.
A day after the board's decision Hennessy told WWL-TV that he was considering legal action over how the process played out in selecting Cafe du Monde to take over the location.
“We’re not too happy with that decision,” Hennessey said to WWL-TV. “It’s just really feeling like we didn’t get a fair deal.”
The Casino Building, a Mission Revival-style structure situated between a lagoon and the park's Botanical Garden, has been used by various concessions operators for many years.
The request for bids this time specifically called for a "beignet café" for the site, and the particulars of the lease were tailored to draw dedicated beignet operations. Park officials had earlier said that the beignet concept had proven to be a hit with park visitors. They said the lease was put out for bid to encourage competition and increase the financial return to City Park. The 1,300-acre park relies mostly on self-generated revenue; it gets no tax money from the city.
Jay Roman, a manager of Café du Monde, said his company plans to overhaul the beignet parlor in a style consistent with its other locations. It will serve its traditional menu of beignets and coffee.
"We're excited to get in there," Roman said. "People will know it's a Café du Monde."
Café du Monde has nine locations, including its original stand in the French Market.
Morning Call also got its start in the French Market, and for many decades New Orleanians and visitors had their pick between them and developed their own loyalties.
In 1974, as the city was undertaking an overhaul of the French Market area, Morning Call relocated to Metairie. It was a fixture in Fat City until closing this spring, when Hennessey cited rising rents and a changing competitive landscape for cafés in the area.
During the board's meeting, several fans of Morning Call spoke of its merits and their hope that the park would keep its operation in place. However, the park's staff and legal counsel said the rules of the bid process dictated their decision.