The surfboards are going back up at the bar and eatery on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Girod streets. The name that people have long associated with this Warehouse District hot spot has returned too, and so have its founders, along with a new partner.
Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar plans to officially reopen on Thursday following a round of legal tumult that briefly changed its name and put its future in question.
“We’re still pinching ourselves; we feel lucky,” said Bruce Rampick, who founded Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and for decades ran the business with his wife, Susan.
The couple now run the restaurant and bar in partnership with Kirkendoll Management, a New Orleans-based company that operates the Penthouse Club and other strip clubs in Louisiana.
Kirkendoll now has a 100-year licensing agreement with Bruce Rampick for the name “Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar,” and in March it took over the lease for 701 Tchoupitoulas St., the longtime home of Lucy’s, according to Tim Spratt, the company’s vice president.
“It’s returning to ‘Lucy’s’ and will be ‘Lucy’s’ for a long time to come,” Spratt said.
Kirkendoll Management is expanding into the restaurant and bar business. Last week, the company hired Jorge Henriquez, previously operations director for the Dickie Brennan & Co. restaurant group, to lead its new restaurant push. It plans to develop additional Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar locations.
“We’re ecstatic,” Susan Rampick said. “The dream has always been to put Lucy’s on the map and to expand, to have more locations, and now we have the dream team to do it.”
The name “Lucy’s” disappeared from the restaurant earlier this year after a dispute between the Rampicks and a former business partner, Frank Eugene Raper. At that time, the Rampicks were no longer running Lucy’s, which was being operated by a company called TWTB Inc.
The Rampicks still controlled the name “Lucy’s,” however, and in January, a federal judge in New Orleans issued an injunction barring TWTB from using the word “Lucy’s,” as well as “surfboards, explicitly surfer-related decorative items, and all menu items that contain references to surfing.”
The sign outside was changed to “701 Bar & Restaurant,” some of the beach-shack décor was removed and old Lucy’s logos around its rooms were covered by hundreds of small stickers with a 701 logo.
More changes were afoot behind the scenes, however. Spratt said a clause in the restaurant’s lease required it to be operated as Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar, and the name change therefore had put the business in default of its lease. He said Kirkendoll Management negotiated a deal to take over the lease this month.
Neither a representative of TWTB nor its attorney could be reached immediately for comment.
Though a well-known New Orleans establishment, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar got its start in New York. Bruce Rampick, a California-born construction worker, had moved to the city to help his brother build out a bar on the Upper West Side. Before it opened, Rampick happened to find a used red surfboard for sale by the roadside in New Jersey.
He bought it on the spot for $60 and installed it at the bar. A theme was born, and when Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar opened in 1985 it became a hit, drawing crowds for margaritas, a colorful atmosphere, Cal-Mex food and a freewheeling spirit.
After Bruce and Susan married, they relocated to her hometown of New Orleans and opened their bar in the Warehouse District in 1992.
They have expanded to other cities over the years, with mixed results. A franchise location of Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar in Baton Rouge remains open and was not involved in the New Orleans legal disputes.
Susan Rampick said they’re excited to reopen “a revived, resuscitated” Lucy’s in the Warehouse District with a business partner who plans to invest more money into it.
“We know people have great memories of Lucy’s. People have met their future husbands and wives here; it’s where we met. It’s what started everything,” she said.
The Warehouse District restaurant closed last week for a first round of renovations prior to Thursday’s official reopening. Surfer decor is coming out of storage and back on the walls, including that original red surfboard from New York.
Henriquez said more renovations are planned, mainly to streamline the operation and give the kitchen more capacity. The menu eventually will get a revamp, though its signature dishes will remain.
“We have so many great plans, and we’re so excited to be partners with these beautiful people and have them back home,” he said.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.