As the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) cited the neighborhood's "resurgence in commercial activity” and arts and entertainment, the New Orleans City Council approved the St. Claude Avenue theater and performance space Backyard Ballroom's request for a conditional use to permit to allow the theater's operation with its newly acquired zoning change.
In October 2012, theater operator Laura Campbell (aka Otter) requested a zoning change for Backyard Ballroom. The theater opened in 2006 and served as a venue for dozens of performances, as well as acclaimed Fringe Fest productions, but it went dark in 2011 pending compliance with the area's zoning.
The initial zoning request was, according to the CPC, "beyond what would be suitable for the area." The CPC feared that the "too intense" zoning change from a neighborhood business district designation to a general commercial district designation would create too many opportunities to build out of scale with the neighborhood. While an arts zoning overlay would be a "long-term solution," CPC suggested a "less intense" commercial designation. In December, City Council approved that "less intense" zoning change.
At today's City Council meeting, CPC staff recommended approval with 12 provisos: The Backyard Ballroom must be soundproofed, install a 6 foot tall fence, restrict hours to no later than midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, install two bike parking spaces, and submit a litter abatement program.
Mary Ann Hammett, who serves on the Bywater Neighborhood Association's board, thanked council for its approval, though said it was an "arduous" process, but added that the neighborhood group plans to submit a proposal for a St. Claude arts and culture zoning overlay district. "To make this not so arduous we have come up with a proposed arts and culture overlay, and you will have that on your desk if not tomorrow then next week," she said.