The Tales will go on ... maybe
Businessman Gary Solomon Jr. and restaurateur Neil Bodenheimer have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to buy the Tales of the Cocktail spirits festival, the future of which has been in doubt since founder Ann Tuennerman and her husband Paul Tuennerman stepped down a few months ago.
The Tuennermans — known as "Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail" — had built Tales from a small summer gathering of cocktail lovers 15 years ago into the drinks industry's premier convention. It takes over thousands of hotel rooms and bars in the city every July and generates an economic impact of $18 million, according to figures provided by Tales media liaison Kate Burr.
During Mardi Gras 2017, Ann Tuennerman rode in the Zulu parade wearing the krewe's traditional blackface, and reactions to a social media photo of her, along with what some saw as racially insensitive explanations from both Tuennermans, led to her stepping down from Tales in early March. In September, the Tuennermans stepped down permanently.
Bodenheimer founded the popular bar Cure and the French Quarter restaurant and bar Cane & Table, and Solomon is president of The Solomon Group.
"We are very excited to step in and save an event that is so critical to what we do as professionals," Bodenheimer said in a statement. "People from all around the world attend Tales of the Cocktail. The Solomon Family and I want to keep it alive for years to come — not only for the city of New Orleans, but for the industry as well."
Quote of the week
"[Baton Rouge] is certainly more like Washington than it was 10 years ago. There's a group of folks in the Legislature, primarily in the House, who I genuinely believe their No. 1 mission is to oppose what I propose and try to ensure that I'm a one-term governor. That's more important to them than dealing with the problems that the state has." — Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a largely flattering profile in the Jan. 2018 issue of Governing magazine.
Landry raises 'sanctuary' city policies — again
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry joined 10 other state attorneys general in pressing a federal appeals court to side with President Donald Trump's order against so-called "sanctuary" cities, a move that was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in November.
Trump's January order makes "sanctuary" municipalities ineligible for certain federal funds. But a ruling from U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick found Trump's order for local governments to enforce federal immigration laws violated the separation of powers doctrine and the Fifth and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In a brief filed this month with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Landry and attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia seek to have that ruling overturned.
"Sanctuary cities undermine the rule of law and rob our law enforcement officers of the tools they need to effectively protect our communities," Landry said in a statement. "We have seen too many crimes occur against our own State's citizens due to sanctuary city policies, which is why I have been actively fighting back against these policies since taking office."
Landry repeatedly has criticized New Orleans police and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who met recently with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy to iron out how local police handle immigration matters. New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) policy doesn't prevent cops from speaking with the feds.
"We are pleased that the Attorney General and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along," Landrieu said in a statement. "New Orleans is not a 'sanctuary city' and the NOPD's policies have maintained consistent compliance [with the law]."
Landry also has butted heads with state lawmakers. Earlier this year, Landry failed to get support for a bill that would strip certain funds from "sanctuary" cities and parishes, though lawmakers agreed Louisiana doesn't have any. That bill died in committee.
Shepherd's presence at Cantrell meeting still a mystery
The presence of former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd at a legislative meeting called by Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell roiled political circles for about 24 hours until Karen Carvin Shachat, a consultant who had worked on Cantrell's campaign, issued a statement attributed to Cantrell that said, "I want to make it clear that Derrick Shepherd did not accompany me to that meeting nor was he invited to participate. His presence at the meeting was solely of his own accord. Shepherd does not now nor will he ever have any role in my transition or in my future administration."
Shepherd began his political rise when he was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2003, then to the state Senate in 2005. He stepped down after pleading guilty to money laundering in 2008 and has been charged more than once with domestic violence. He spent more than two years in prison, then attempted a comeback in 2015 when he ran for another House seat, an attempt that ended in failure when a district judge upheld a law forbidding felons to run for public office. That ruling was later overturned, but it came after the election. What Shepherd was doing at Cantrell's meeting remains a mystery.
Cantrell, who assumes the mayoralty in May, has yet to announce any appointments to her administration (see Clancy DuBos' "Politics," p. 10).
Christmas trees for coastal restoration
Want your Christmas tree to help protect Louisiana's fragile coastline? Simply put it on the curb for garbage pickup this month (but make sure there's nothing still on it). New Orleans residents with service from Richard's Disposal and Metro Services, as well as residents of Jefferson Parish, should put their trees out for pickup on the regularly scheduled second garbage day between Jan. 11-13. French Quarter and Downtown Development District residents with service from Empire Services should put their trees out for pickup on Jan. 11. Make sure the trees are on the curb by 4 a.m. that morning.
Last year, more than 8,000 Christmas trees were collected and airlifted by the Louisiana National Guard into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.
Torres: Zoning decision 'act of political vengeance'
Real estate developer and reality-ish TV personality Sidney Torres has ramped up his beefs with City Hall and French Quarter residents after Torres secured a temporary restraining order last month that prevents the city from enforcing an order that says he can't use a Rampart Street church as an events venue.
Torres bought the property in 2016 and previously announced plans to turn it into a nursing home (which didn't pan out) and events space, in addition to a scaled-down place of worship. The Monastery has hosted several events since then, and Torres argued the building's former use as a wedding venue (and his permits to host them) gave him license to operate similarly, though running as a for-profit business. The city's Board of Zoning Adjustments disagreed.
In a Facebook post announcing the restraining order, Torres called the city's zoning enforcement an "act of political vengeance" following his Voice PAC presence during 2017's citywide elections and criticism against Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration following the Aug. 5 flood. "Unfortunately, the current city administration continues to prove that it's all about pleasing the right people, inside the administration and out, whether or not there is a legal basis for the city's action and regardless of whether such action complies with the applicable appeal process," he said. "Political payback has to end."