Plans are underway to turn a surface parking lot near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome into a six-story mix of retail and parking space anchored by a 40,000-square-foot Dave & Buster’s restaurant, a popular casual-dining spot known for attractions such as arcade games and billiard tables.
The proposal calls for building 18,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of 1200 Poydras St., as well as four parking levels with space for 400 cars, and the restaurant at the top.
The property’s owner, Poydras Properties II LLC, last month requested conditional-use permits from the city for a non-accessory public parking garage and an amusement place.
Founded in an empty Dallas warehouse in 1982, Dave & Buster’s has grown to more than 70 locations in at least 30 states and Canada. Each site has upwards of 160 employees.
The company, with restaurants distinguished from typical casual-dining options by their focus on providing entertainment, has long-term plans to grow to more than 200 restaurants in coming years. That includes opening as many as eight new locations in 2015.
The chain’s restaurants are often compared to a Chuck E. Cheese’s for adults: a mix of casual dining and arcade games, billiard tables and televisions for watching sports and other events. The local project’s backers include Christopher Robertson, the owner and developer of Waypoint NOLA LLC. Robertson also is involved in the redevelopment of 1250 Poydras, a nearby 24-story office building where nearly one-third of the largely vacant former Mobil Oil Building is being converted into a Hyatt House Hotel in a $120 million effort.
He declined to say Tuesday how much the Dave & Buster’s project is expected to cost.
The former Mobil Building, erected in 1978, will boast lodging options under Hyatt’s all-suite, extended-stay hotel brand. The 194-room facility will be connected to the larger Hyatt Regency Hotel when it opens later this year.
Although the hotel and restaurant projects are separate, Robertson said they would be “definitely complementary” to one another.
He said tourists staying at the Hyatt might take the short walk over for dinner and a few games of skee-ball at Dave & Buster’s, which may also draw visitors staying elsewhere, local residents and families looking for something different, and people who work in the area and want a fresh option for grabbing a bite to eat before heading home.
Robertson said the Dave & Buster’s project has been in the works for about a year. He said it could be finished by the end of the year.
While the restaurant wouldn’t necessarily play into the city’s traditional tourist draws, David Pearlman, an associate professor of hotel, restaurant and tourism administration at the University of New Orleans, said the chain could still find plenty of success locally.
He said he expects it would pick up business from conventioneers, possibly pulling them from Fulton Alley’s bowling lanes or Barcadia, a bar and grill that features classic video games in the 600 block of Tchoupitoulas Street.
“I think it’s going to do real well,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s going to not necessarily showcase what we have here, which is all the phenomenal food and all of the phenomenal entertainment.”
Some residents, leery of chain stores encroaching into the city, may not support the effort, Pearlman said, but “it’s a pretty familiar brand. It’s a good place for me if I wanted to take a first date, because there’s an activity, there’s something we can do if we’re not getting along so well. There’s not a lot of places where adults can go and do activities.”
Although efforts to open a different chain restaurant — a Cuban restaurant — on the edge of the French Quarter have drawn the ire of many nearby residents for more than a year, City Council President Stacy Head said she isn’t concerned that an arcade-style restaurant would “eclipse what’s real about New Orleans.”
“Taking a surface parking lot and turning it into tiered parking with a family activity venue and entertainment center for residents and tourists is nothing but good,” Head said. “It’s a great addition to New Orleans. I don’t think it’s in any way going to turn us into a typical American city. It’ll just be one more thing to enjoy.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.