by Ian McNulty
For the past few years, Galatoire's Restaurant has invited the reigning royalty of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus into its dining room for a ceremony on the Friday before the French Quarter parade for dogs and their owners. Pictured above is the 2007 queen of Barkus, Biscuit, the dog owned by Times Picayune columnist Chris Rose.
When dogs head back to Galatoire's for this year's ceremony on Friday, Feb. 13, the attending local animal advocates will likely be smiling about more than just the spectacle of dogs in the famous dining room.
That's because Animal Rescue of New Orleans (ARNO) was one of two beneficiaries from a unique fundraiser held by Galatoire's earlier this week.
The French Creole restaurant hosted a party Monday night to auction off seats to its most coveted lunch date, with the proceeds benefiting ARNO and also the International Shrine of St. Jude. They raised $75,000 in an hour. In return, the winning bidders get the right to reserve their seats for lunch service on Feb. 20, the Friday before Mardi Gras.
On Friday, Scrappy Trotta, the canine king of this year's Barkus parade, will visit Galatoire's and meet his queen. The dog was an ARNO rescue pet who has found a home, and ARNO reps will be on hand for the event along with St. Jude pastor Father Anthony Rigioli, who will bless the dogs.
The Galatoire's table auction has turned into an annual event and a novel solution to what had become a real problem for the restaurant. These lunches before the big holidays are serious traditions for some people and are well-known as rollicking, rambunctious upper-class bacchanals. Galatoire's does not accept reservations for the first floor dining room, where most people want to sit, so to ensure a table some regulars began gaming the restaurant's first-come, first-seated policy by paying others to stand in line for them. What evolved was the spectacle of college students, domestic help, office interns and some people who appeared to be homeless waiting in line in the weather over a full day in advance on the behalf of well-heeled patrons.
The auctions are a nice work-around for Galatoire's. Since 2006, the restaurant's devotees have ponied up a total of $475,000 for nonprofits in exchange for the right to sit first. The bids, which can go as high as $1,000 a seat for some tables, do not cover the expense of the meals or bar bills - themselves.
- Ian McNulty