They Don't Love That Chicken From Popeyes


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As reported earlier this month, “A Step in the Right Direction,” Larry Willis, who owns a property on the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Bartholomew Street (4000 St. Claude), was offered a twenty-year guaranteed lease by Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, but only if Popeyes could have a drive-through window for their chicken stand. Since the property was zoned B1-A and didn’t allow for a drive-through, Willis would have to apply to the City Planning Comission for conditional use.

This past Tuesday, October 9, Willis presented his case to the commission and was turned down.

Local residents weren’t in favor of the Willis’ plan, particularly John Guarnieri, who lives near the proposed restaurant and

started a petition against the proposal. Guarnieri found an ally in “Steps for a Healthier New Orleans,” a federally funded program charged with combating obesity, diabetes, and asthma. Dr. Amita Toprani, program director, pointed out to Guarnieri that the fast-food restaurant was only a block away from two schools: Drew Elementary School and Frederick Douglass High School. Toprani and Erin Baker, assistant of director of Tulane University’s Prevention Research Center and a Step’s collaborative partner, believed the restaurant would negatively impact neighborhood kids’ health.

Both wrote letters in support of Guarnieri’s petition.

The City Planning Commission staff sided with Willis. If Willis complied with a number of requirements, the staff felt the changes would “effectively mitigate the adverse impacts that may result from the proposed use.”

Neighborhood residents disagreed and a number of them, including Baker—who explained that obesity was fast-growing epidemic “that had become the number one killer”—told the commissioners they didn’t want another fast-food restaurant. Other residents complained about the traffic congestion and that the fast-food restaurant didn’t fit the neighborhood’s vision for a new Bywater. Bill Easterling, representing Popeyes Corporation, reiterated that his company was prepared to make a $1 million investment in the Bywater neighborhood.

In the end, the commission ruled in favor of the opponents to the drive-through. Commissioner Robinson said he understood the staff’s recommendation, but he agreed with residents that there were “adverse impacts they believed could not be overcome.”

The proposal will come before the City Council in the next few weeks.


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