Morning Call Coffee Stand has been homeless for more than two months now, after losing its former City Park location to longtime competitor Café du Monde. But the historic New Orleans brand for beignets and café au lait has not been idle.
Morning Call is now in the early phases of developing a new location at a yet-to-be-disclosed Mid-City address.
The company is also pursuing new location possibilities in Hammond and in Metairie, and it has a line of beignet mix and its own packaged coffee in the works.
“We’ve been busy,” said co-owner Bob Hennessey.
Hennessey said he has signed a letter of intent with a developer to build a new Morning Call location from the ground up in Mid-City. He would not identify the location, citing ongoing contract negotiations.
If plans progress as he hopes, the new Morning Call could be in business before the end of the year. He said he is pursuing the Hammond and Metairie prospects for Morning Call in addition to the New Orleans location, so multiple future locations are possible.
“We’re working diligently and are eager to get back to the field of play,” Hennessey said.
The last call for Morning Call at its previous home in City Park came on Jan. 20
after Café du Monde won the contract to operate in the park's Casino Building following a public bid process that captivated New Orleans as two of its iconic local brands faced off.
While the business case hinged on the particulars of bid proposals, the contest stirred the nostalgia and loyalties of beignet-loving locals like so much powdered sugar. For generations, many people have gravitated to one or the other brand for the traditional New Orleans treat.
Morning Call had run a cafe in City Park since 2012, though its history reaches back to the French Market in the 19th century. Morning Call moved from the French Quarter to Metairie in 1974 and for a generation was part of the landscape around Lakeside Mall. But this café closed in 2018, citing higher rents and changing competition in the area.
Losing the City Park space meant the historic brand was out of action. But Hennessey insisted it would be back.
In the meantime, Morning Call has conducted a pair of pop-up style appearances at the Fair Grounds Race Course, serving coffee and beignets during races. It’s also done private catering, and Hennessey said he’s been working on a retail product line for beignet mix and bagged coffee, with label designs now in progress.
“Lots of people over the years have asked us for this, so we’re using the downtime to get it going,” he said.
City Park started a public bid process for a coffee and beignet cafe in its Casino Building early in 2018, drawing proposals from Morning Call, Café du Monde and Café Beignet, another local brand. City Park initially named Café du Monde the winner, but Morning Call sued over the park’s bid award process and a Civil District Court judge threw out that lease. In a second round of bidding, Café du Monde won with the high offer.
Café du Monde is now renovating the park’s Casino Building to open its own location there, and in the meantime has its food truck deployed by the building to serve coffee and beignets. The new Cafe du Monde is slated to open there later this spring.
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