A rezoning sign is posted outside the vacant space at 417 Jefferson Street Monday, February 17, 2020, in Lafayette, La. The space was most recenly home to The Ballroom.

The owner of the Grouse Room is aiming to open a new live entertainment venue in downtown Lafayette in time for Festival International at the end of April.

Matt Chiasson said the new venue at 417 Jefferson St., which is next door to Central Pizza, will look and feel like the existing one on Kaliste Saloom Road, but with more space to host larger touring acts in addition to the local shows Grouse Room is known for. The interior needs only cosmetic improvements, he said, and plans include a patio space facing the gates of Parc International.

Chiasson pointed to a smattering of recent openings in downtown commercial spaces — and announcements of recent openings — as the reason he decided to move forward with the new venue now.

“The Grouse Room is a tribute to my older brother, who passed away,” Chiasson said. “He was a real big downtown guy, lived above Teche Drugs for a number of years. So it makes a lot of sense that we would end up there.”

Chiasson’s plans to open next door to Central Pizza cleared a bureaucratic hurdle Monday evening when the Zoning Commission endorsed a conditional use permit, which is necessary for any downtown establishment that draws most of its revenue from alcohol sales.

The commission’s vote is not binding on the Lafayette City Council, which will ultimately decide the matter. The approval was conditioned on four requirements: The business must be open at least four nights per week; the operator must submit a security plan; doors and windows must stay closed; and no external speakers, except in the private courtyard.

The permit application contains limited plans, though it notes anticipated opening hours from noon to 2 a.m. The two-story space, which is currently vacant, holds 800 people, according to the application. The second floor, which holds 30% of the capacity, would be primarily reserved for private parties.

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The building owner, Nedal Qamhiyeh, said Chiasson is leasing the building with an option to buy within the first three years, subject to terms and conditions. He would not provide additional details concerning the arrangement. Chiasson declined to provide additional details about the arrangement.

The former City-Parish Council two years ago replaced a moratorium on downtown bars with a conditional-use permitting regime, providing council members with the discretion to allow them case by case.

Three applicants have sought permits since the ordinance passed, and two — Artmosphere and the Wurst Biergarten, both of which were already in business — have succeeded. The council, acting on the Zoning Commission’s recommendation, rejected the third, a husband-wife team that wanted to open a brewery on Garfield Street.

Qamhiyeh said he believes Chiasson’s reputation as an established, financially stable operator is a good fit for the space.

“We were waiting and being patient to secure the right tenant for this building,” Qamhiyeh said.

Acadiana Business Today: Grouse Room owner looks to open new venue on Jefferson Street; Plan to bring Aldi to Lafayette gets preliminary OK

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