New Orleans has many examples of restaurant-hotel partnerships, with well-known chefs and restaurateurs pairing with hotel brands to expand their operations.
Now, one of the city’s next-generation restaurant companies is growing by opening its own hotel.
It’s slated to debut in the fall at 4125 St. Charles Ave., in a property previously called the Avenue Inn Bed & Breakfast.
It will be a boutique hotel with 15 guest rooms and a restaurant, a lobby bar and a pool bar, all under the Corsair name.
For company founder Robért LeBlanc, it will also be a proving ground for a different approach to the hospitality business.
“We have a chance to be innovative and hit that sweet spot for how people want to travel now,” said LeBlanc.
“They want to get into the neighborhoods and really explore the life of the cities they visit, but they still want the amenities you don’t get from Airbnbs. They want to have that lobby bar downstairs."
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The company has a track record for blending contemporary tastes with evocative New Orleans settings. While the hotel business is a new realm, LeBlanc said the framework for the Corsair comes from the same guiding principles.
“This will feel like the modern expression of an old school inn,” LeBlanc said. “There will be reasons for locals to come, too, and when they do, we want it to be an inviting place to spend time without a schedule or agenda.”
LeBlanc said he started looking into hotel development because he wants his company to keep growing, but he has become concerned about how many more restaurants New Orleans can handle.
“I think it would be hard for us to create many more projects like we have without watering down what we have,” he said. “We believe in indie restaurants, but that ecosystem can be really fragile. This is a way for us to take another step in the hospitality business.”
Corsair's home is a Queen Anne-style building that dates to 1891. Designed by Thomas Sully, a prolific local architect of the era, it was originally a private residence, one of a succession of stately homes lining St. Charles Avenue. The property eventually became a boarding house before it was converted into a bed-and-breakfast.
The house — next door to New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. — stands behind the twisting limbs of live oaks; its property extends through a long, narrow lot all the way to Carondelet Street.
Renovations will be extensive and will continue for months.
When the Corsair opens, visitors will find a garden patio along St. Charles leading to the porch and entrance. The ground floor will be devoted to public spaces, including the restaurant and a large horseshoe-shaped bar.
The design throughout, LeBlanc said, will be open and bright, with a Caribbean aspect. The lobby will open to a patio and pool with its own bar.
The Corsair restaurant will have 120 seats and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. LeBlanc described it as a modern New Orleans restaurant, with local flavors and a lighter touch aimed at “the 21st century palate."
Local names involved with the project include Sara Ruffin Costello for interior design and John D. Gray, of Gray Gardens, for landscaping.
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The 90-room Alder Hotel opened in 2017 about a mile away, adjacent to Ochsner Baptist hospital. In scale and concept, though, the Corsair may be more comparable to the Columns Hotel. Built in another historic mansion a few blocks down St. Charles Avenue, this well-known hotel has 20 guest rooms and a bar and patio with a robust local following.
LeBlanc said his choice of neighborhood for the Corsair came from cultural reasons as well as market calculations.
“Uptown has so much cultural, historic and architectural significance to New Orleans,” he said. “There’s a lot happening here, and with a hotel, we have a great lens to help tell the story to visitors.”
Even with the Corsair still in development, LeBlanc said he is contemplating the prospects for further expansion.
“It’s a different kind of hotel, and I’m really interested in creating a new hotel brand that expresses the New Orleans idea of hospitality,” he said. “We have no intentions of taking our restaurants to other cities. But I do think we would be able to bring a hotel conceived with the New Orleans idea of hospitality elsewhere.”
4125 St. Charles Ave.
Scheduled to open fall 2019
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified John Gray's title.
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