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Dickie Brennan buys theater space

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  As the clock wound down on 2011, the gears turned on a deal to add a restaurant to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre (616 St. Peter St., phone n.a.; www.lepetittheatre.com) and reopen the landmark theater.

  On Dec. 29, the board of Le Petit completed the sale of part of its French Quarter property to local restaurant management group Dickie Brennan & Co., according to a release from that company. The restaurant will serve French-Creole cuisine and will feature private dining rooms in addition to the main dining room. An official name has not been released, but the Brennan group registered the trade name "Tableau" with the state in October.

  With the deal finalized, the way seems clear for Dickie Brennan & Co. to begin renovations. The restaurant is expected to open in fall 2012 in conjunction with the planned return of theater productions to the 365-seat main stage of Le Petit. The restaurant will be located along the Chartres Street side of the building, in what previously was used as a black box-style theater space.

  "We're anxious to get started on renovations," Steve Pettus, managing partner of Dickie Brennan & Co., said in a statement. "Creating an alliance that works for Le Petit Theatre, as well as us, takes time. But, good things come to those who wait, and we're very proud of how we're moving forward together."

  First announced this summer, plans for the sale became the source of considerable disagreement between the theater's board and its guild, an independent support group. In August, the theater's membership voted in favor of the sale.

  Le Petit is one of the oldest community theaters in America, with roots dating back to 1916. But debts put its future in doubt, and in December 2010 the theater canceled its season and laid off staff.

  According to the deal, Dickie Brennan & Co. paid $3 million for 60 percent of the theater property. Le Petit's board retains ownership of the main stage theater and other portions of the building, and the two entities will share access to the main lobby and courtyard. The board said it intends to use sales proceeds to pay off the building's mortgage and other debts and establish a $1 million endowment. The plan calls for renovations throughout the building.

  Restaurateur Dickie Brennan suggested the theater could benefit from his restaurant group's marketing and customer base.

  "We plan to bring additional patrons to Le Petit and spread the word of (the theater's) venerable history to our many guests that we host each year," Brennan said.

  Dickie Brennan & Co. runs Palace Cafe, Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse and Bourbon House, which are all located within several blocks of Le Petit.

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