The Morning Call Coffee Stand will serve its last order of beignets and café au lait in City Park next week. The final day for the historic New Orleans brand in its current home is now set for Jan. 20.
The planned closure comes after longtime competitor Café du Monde won a public bid process to operate in City Park, replacing Morning Call in the park's Casino Building.
Morning Call has run a cafe in the park since 2012, though its history reaches back to the 19th century.
After Jan. 20, it will no longer have any location. Morning Call closed its cafe in Metairie last spring after more than 40 years in business near Lakeside Mall.
"We're really looking hard for our new home, and we have people looking out for us," said Bob Hennessey, co-owner of Morning Call.
He said he's looking at prospective locations in New Orleans and in Jefferson Parish, and he said there's a possibility Morning Call could have multiple locations when it returns.
"In a way, this has kicked us into action," Hennessey said. "Even though we loved the park, and the people loved us, in the long run this might be a good thing."
The impending closure is the latest turn in a coffee and beignet saga that has been anything but sweet.
It started early in 2018 when City Park put out a call for bids for a contract to operate a cafe in its Casino building. Café du Monde was awarded a 10-year lease, but in August a judge nullified the lease after Morning Call filed suit over the initial results.
City Park issued a new call for bids in the fall. When they were submitted in December, Café du Monde came in with the highest bid. Its offer to pay City Park $25,760 a month edged out the next highest bidder, Café Beignet, which offered $25,100. Morning Call's bid was $23,800.
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The Casino building, situated between a lagoon and the park's Botanical Garden, has been used by various concessions operators for many years.
City Park CEO Bob Becker said the bid process was initiated to ensure the park would get the highest return from the concession there. He also said it was clear that park users wanted a beignet parlor in that location. The request for bids was tailored to draw local companies.
“Over the years, we’ve tried lots of different products there, and coffee and beignets has been by far the most popular,” Becker said.
In the first round of bidding last year, Morning Call turned in the high bid out of three proposals, narrowly beating out those from Café du Monde and Café Beignet. The bids were based on a monthly rent and a percentage of sales.
However, City Park's management and legal counsel decided to disqualify Morning Call's proposal because the company had missed a mandatory pre-bid meeting. As a result, the park awarded the lease to the next highest bidder, which was Café du Monde.
Civil District Court Judge Christopher Bruno overruled that decision in August, siding with Morning Call and calling the park's action "arbitrary and capricious."
For the new bid process, companies were told they would be evaluated strictly on the rent they offered to pay.
After bids were unsealed last month, Café du Monde co-owner Jay Roman said the company stuck with the prolonged bid process because of the location and what it could mean to the community.
“Our family just loves City Park,” said Roman. “It’s such a great institution for New Orleans, and you can see it’s really headed in the right direction. We want to be part of that.”
Café du Monde has nine locations, including its famous stand in the French Market at Jackson Square.
Morning Call also got its start in the French Market, and for many decades New Orleanians and visitors had their pick between the two highly similar operations a couple of blocks apart.
In 1974, as the city was undertaking an overhaul of the French Market area, Morning Call decamped to Metairie, where it operated near Lakeside Mall for 44 years before closing last spring.
Facing an uncertain future, Hennessey has remained upbeat about Morning Call's prospects.
"We are not going out of business," he said. "Morning Call will be back."
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