CBD developers hoping Saints success will help launch businesses

Eyewitness News – For many years, this part of the Central Business District was underdeveloped, home to blighted properties but now that’s all changing.

“We definitely felt like this area and this part of the city would come back stronger than ever, and we wanted to be a part of it,” said Jack Warner of Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar.

The soon-to-be Walk-Ons Bistreaux & Bar and Happy’s Irish Bar are the latest development projects to pop up along Poydras.

“New Orleans is a very passionate town when it comes to food, people, sports, all that good stuff,” Warner said. “We definitely saw there was an opportunity to bring a sports concept into the city.”

Warner and his business partner Brandon Landry, who are both former LSU basketball players, are taking over the former Smith & Wollensky building, closed since Hurricane Katrina.

“The bar is original, dates back to the 1800s, kept it 100 percent intact,” Warner said. “We’re going to refurbish it and everything.”

From a courtyard to a new wrap-around balcony to flatscreen televisions and private rooms, the historic building is being brought back to life.

“We completely gutted the Old Smith and Wollensky space and just tried to open it up,” Warner said.

On the same block sits St. Marie, a French restaurant that is part of “930 Poydras,” the luxury condo and retail development.

“We’re still learning a really new neighborhood in the city that really hasn’t been developed in this way,” said Selena Donavan, operations director of the Lifestyle Revolution Group.

Only six months old, the restaurant is in a part of the CBD that Donavan describes as the wild-wild-west — where development can potentially blossom.

“Any bit of business on this side of Poydras is going to help foot traffic. It’s going to help anyone opening here,” Donavan said. “So we’re very excited to be have new neighbors.”

As two friends expand their entrepreneurial dreams from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, they’re hoping for success.

“Three months from now on a Sunday afternoon, hopefully the Saints are blowing out whoever they’re playing in the ‘Dome, two blocks away, and we’ve got this place packed with nothing but Saints fans,” Warner said.

Walks-Ons plans on opening its doors by the end of August.

Another major project underway is here at Champions Square. SMG says this latest outdoor phase will be complete by September.

By: Tania Dall