Big changes at Bacchanal



The wine is still flowing at Bacchanal, and you can still cut into a fat cheese plate here. But some of the other ingredients that have made the place a Bywater hot spot came to an abrupt halt this week.

Bacchanal had been serving a chef-led menu of small plates prepared in an outdoor kitchen and hosting musical acts nightly in its backyard. Both the food and music are on hold right now.

Proprietor Chris Rudge says he recently learned his outdoor kitchen does not meet city health codes, and he says he is now building an indoor kitchen inside the wine shop.

“We’re looking at maybe six to eight weeks to do that, then our food will be back,” he says. “In the meantime, we’re inviting food trucks to come park in our driveway so our customers can still get fed.”

Food truck service could begin as soon as this weekend, Rudge says. The future of music at Bacchanal might be a tougher issue, however.

“A neighbor complained and that shut us down,” Rudge says of the music. “All of the musicians who were working here are now out of a gig because of it.”

Bacchanal doesn’t have a city permit for live music, although music has long been part of the program here. Rudge opened Bacchanal as a straight-ahead wine shop in 2002 and wine tastings amid the inventory racks were soon joined by ad hoc garden parties as local musicians performed and customers sipped wine picnic-style in the backyard.

Chef-driven food joined the equation shortly after Katrina when Pete Vazquez of the storm-shuttered restaurant Marisol set up a mobile kitchen behind Bacchanal. Chefs from around the city joined the rotation too, and before long these Sunday evening food/wine/music happenings put Bacchanal on the map for locals and well-informed visitors. Last year, the HBO series "Treme" even taped a scene at Bacchanal for an episode depicting an early post-Katrina chef event.

Rudge says he’s working on a solution to return music to Bacchanal through permitting, a zoning change for the property or some other accommodation.

“We’re still open as a wine shop and a wine bar, we have food trucks coming, we’ll have our own food going in a few weeks and hopefully we’ll have music again if we can convince City Hall to let us,” Rudge says.

600 Poland Ave., 948-9111

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