Frenchmen Street Crowds Spill into the street. (Photo:

Fixing Frenchmen Street

Up until maybe three or four years ago, Frenchmen Street was the place where “the locals went to hear great music.” Back then the ratios of locals to tourists was maybe 90 to 10. In that short period of time, the numbers of tourists and locals has probably switched to 90 percent tourists and 10 percent locals. Too bad.

I’ve had so many friends and local people tell me that they no longer want to go to Frenchmen because it’s become too crowded and the nature of the people that go to the street has changed drastically. This crowd isn’t necessarily into music, first and foremost—the way it used to be. They are there to drink and party: like what’s done on Bourbon. Music is no longer the commodity; alcohol is. Music is now simply the draw that gets people into bars, which means that the quality of the music goes down; the managers don’t necessarily care about the musicians and bands who play there (since the music is only there to get more beer pours).

This has happened before. On Bourbon Street.

I was in an interesting meeting today with Jim Peters, of the Sociable City Network/Responsible Hospitality Institute. Peters’ company specializes in working with partners, cities and communities throughout the US and the world to improve and sustain “nighttime economies.” What Peters does is create better models for hospitality sustainability and to share information that will improve everyone’s city in all aspects of the hospitality industry. He had a conference here in 2008, and says he’d like to return to New Orleans in 2018 (CVB and Mayor’s Office…are you listening?)

At one point in time, people went to Bourbon Street for its music and entertainment. It was a street that people walked down, while at the same time vehicular traffic still went down Bourbon. What this means is that the people who went to Bourbon Street were going there to hear music (okay, sometimes maybe The Oyster Girl, too). Music (and entertainment) were the draws, not the street scene, the party scene that Bourbon developed into.

Peters mentioned a few factors which probably contributed to the demise of Bourbon Street as a music destination. One is the closing of the street to vehicular traffic. While one might think that closing the street made it safer for pedestrians, what in effect happened was that the party and entertainment moved from inside the bars and music clubs and into the street. Cover charges did exist at music venues in Bourbon at one time. Now entry into most of the bars and clubs on Bourbon is free; after all, the party has now moved outside because the street has been turned into a pedestrian mall. For the most part, the venues and bars leave their doors open and try to entice passers-by into their venues through the use of obnoxious barkers (now also beginning to appear on Frenchmen) and by trying to crank up the music as loud as they can to attract people to come inside (and we know what problems this causes with loud music).

Bourbon is within walking distance of many, many hotels. It’s developed into a street party rather than a music and entertainment street. Frenchmen is not necessarily a safe walk from many hotels. This is one reason why it was it was easier for locals: they could park in the neighborhood and walk. Frenchmen Street was still a music destination.

That’s obviously changing, as the crowds on Frenchmen are now getting so large that at times it’s almost gotten dangerous to walk on the sidewalks. So the crowds spill out into the street—still open to vehicular traffic.

Jason Patterson and Wesley Schmidt of Snug Harbor are adamantly against closing down Frenchmen Street to vehicular traffic as they see it as the next step towards the “Bourbonization” of Frenchmen. There are already many clubs that do not have a cover charge; they are free for people to hear music. While this is great for patrons, it may not be so good for the bands who have to depend on a payment fro the venue or a percentage of the bar, or a tip jar, in order to be paid.

So what’s the solution to keeping Frenchmen music-centric?

First, we need a convenient, inexpensive, safe place for local people to park to go to Frenchmen. The best option would be to convert the French Market Corporation-controlled parking lot between Decatur and Chartres (bordering on Elysian Fields) into a multi-story parking garage. At one time there were plans for a garage at this location, but the neighborhood association killed it because it violated Marigny height restrictions.

The parking garage can be paid, but at night, Frenchmen Street patrons should have to show proof that they were patronizing Frenchmen music clubs.’

Second, doors to music venues need to be closed, and all venues need to charge a cover charge. It could be a small cover, but it would certainly raise the quality of the music on Frenchmen, the bands would have a more secure income, and it would prevent a further Bourbonization of the street. Frenchmen Street would instantly become a music destination once again.

Third, the street should not be closed to vehicular traffic, but the sidewalks on either side should be widened to allow for a single lane of traffic down Frenchmen and to give the music venues some leeway in dealing with crowds. Restrict delivery times to daylight hours, preferably morning, and provide a curb cut or two for a delivery vehicle (even though there is reserved commercial parking on Decatur Street already for delivery trucks).

Fourth, there should be a permanent police presence on Frenchmen. Why not a satellite Eighth District location (like the police station at the Healing Center)?

Fifth, absolutely no strip or gentlemen’s clubs or burlesque.

This is going to take a change in mentality for some of the clubs, and participation by the Mayor’s Office and District C Councliperson Nadine Ramsey, as well as the French Market Corporation and neighborhood to get the parking lot constructed. It’s about time.

My 25 cents.



  • kmsoap

    Thanks for this, Jan, You bring up some great points. I have been advocating for the parking garage for years. Has there been any progress made on the French Market Corporation side of this?

    There are a couple of practical considerations to keep in mind. Many of the clubs are licensed in such a way that they cannot charge a cover, and there is little interest in getting that situation straightened out.

    Creating a one lane street only makes it more difficult for bands to get their gear in and out of the venues for gigs. It also eliminates much needed parking, so unless the parking garage is constructed, it cannot even be considered. Traffic may appear to be an issue, but if you were to take the time to really observe, you would find that by the time Frenchmen reaches critical mass, most of the traffic consists of cabbies trolling for fares, who are there providing a much needed service, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Traffic moves along at about 5 mph, and with the exception of the very occasional impatient asshole who lays on the horn, everyone understands that nothing is going to move very quickly, meaning it is simple to stop for the wayward pedestrian or for them to get out of the way. The biggest traffic issue on Frenchmen is cyclists going the wrong way, and I would in no way suggest we ban bicycles.

    MaCCNO just had a well attended meeting where topics concerning Frenchmen were addressed. There were several Frenchmen Street venue owners and managers in attendance, and it was a good meeting. It should serve as the jumping off point for further conversation. The Frenchmen Patrol, which has been used as a tool specifically to harass street culture, was a big topic. The street culture does not discourage club attendance, it enhances it and this has been collaborated by conversations with other business owners.

    Business practices that discourage the highest quality musicians from playing the clubs were also touched upon. While it is important to make room for new up and coming acts, it should not happen because the established acts are being treated poorly or unfairly.

    Frenchmen Street is a great success story and a wonderful showcase for our music and culture. Let’s keep it that way.

    • PhilButt

      Tell me how having begging gutterpunks, dudes manning up grills on every corner with no regard to the basic elements of health code, food trucks parked on every inch of the neutral ground, shitty artists blocking the sidewalk hawking cheap trinkets, and anyone with an instrument playing in the doorways of closed businesses enhances the street?
      Just because you can blow a horn or make a necklace out of string and tin cans does NOT give you unalienable rights to just post up and do what you want on a sidewalk or in the middle of the street.
      Let’s be real now. One of the major factors locals dont come down to Frenchmen anymore is because of the mess the actual street outside has become.
      This is not street culture. It hasnt been in a long time.

      • kmsoap

        Your post is so far off the factual mark that it’s impossible to respond to in a respectful manner, so I am going to have to abstain from taking a trip down your rabbit hole.

        In terms of factual errors, nobody has ever called a beggar street culture, there is no neutral ground on Frenchmen Street and nobody is doing anything but catching a cab in the middle of the street. I’m all about solutions, and I’ll be happy to continue this discourse when you give your rhetoric a reality check.

        • PhilButt

          There is a neutral ground on Esplanade at the foot of Frenchmen. Since you arent aware of it you havent seen the food trucks and grills and the congregation of gutterpunks that are the first thing people see as they step on the street.
          I have worked on Frenchmen for a decade. The streets had gotten so cluttered with people selling shit that the sidewalks were no longer navigable in the 500 and 600 blocks. What started out with one grill guy had escalated to 15 or so people selling some kind of food, and that doesnt even count the many jello shot girls and guys with coolers selling alcohol. Dont try and tell me about the culture on the street man. I see it EVERY night.

          • kmsoap

            The intersection of Decatur Street and Esplanade Avenue is not Frenchmen Street and not covered in the Frenchmen overlay. That said, the French Quarter Task Force has pushed young travelers out of the Quarter and FMTBA hired guns have pushed people from Frenchmen Street, so the large congregation of people is a result of poorly thought out patchwork policing. What, exactly, did you expect? Did you think these pseudo police forces were going to vaporize people? All they EVER do is move people to their border.


          • PhilButt

            That article does a great job of pointing out all the potential negatives of the Frenchmen patrol. Nowhere does it address how to realistically manage a situation that is escalating out of control. What street in this country can someone legally put their barbecue grill in the middle of a street and sell food? Or set up their band on a sidewalk and play at any volume? Why would this be allowed on Frenchmen Street and what makes it right? The argument that it is part of the culture is such a weak excuse.

          • kmsoap

            There are three words in your response that describe the problem with this situation and many others around the city. “…in this country…”

            The unique culture of New Orleans is advised by many other cultures, including the obvious French and Spanish influences. But due to our climate and use of outside space, our cultural and architectural scene are specifically advised by the Caribbean. Cuba was our number one trade partner for over 200 years, until the embargo was enacted. We received an influx of Haitian immigration in conjunction with their revolution in the late 1700’s.

            Now, if you look beyond our borders to the places that heavily influenced our city’s development, you will find many street cultures that are similar to ours. Nobody is forcing you to eat from street vendors, and if everyone felt as you do, they would never return. But obviously someone is buying food from them, and at MaCCNO’s recent Frenchmen Street meeting it was mentioned that even the FMTBA Patrol is eating their food as they continue to harass poets. Y’all need to get your stories straight instead of just attacking people willy nilly. Your own patrol uses conflicting rules every night.

            Part of what people love about New Orleans is the Caribbean influence, and the club owners certainly take advantage of laissez faire permit enforcement. Obviously, they believe the only exemption to the rules should be theirs.

          • kmsoap

            But, as a tip of the hat to your American sentiments, it’s the US Constitution that grants rights to street performers. The courts have addressed this numerous times.

          • PhilButt

            This isnt Cuba or the Caribbean dude. It’s New Orleans. Last I checked this city was ‘in this country’. It’s not hard to get to from other cities in this country. Go and check the IDs of the people selling their crappy trinkets and busking in a doorway on Frenchmen on a saturday night. With the exception of the brass band do you think any of these people are from here?
            Just like Jan said in her misinformed article…the street is 90 to 10 tourist to local. That also applies to the people that you claim should be protected under the banner of ‘culture’. Why can anyone with a banjo and bag full of badly blown glass be allowed to hitch a freight train here and just set up shop? That is what you are arguing for. And then on the other hand lamenting the loss of some imaginary bygone era of what Frenchmen used to be. You are just as big of hypocrite as Jan.
            Jan writes this bullshit pretending like she gives a fuck about Frenchmen musicians, but then when the Offbeat awards roll around she completely disregards the bands that play here all year long to give Trombone Shorty another hand job.
            Neither one of you have any clue of what really goes on on the street.

          • kmsoap

            Back up, buddy. I never lamented the loss of anything, Frenchmen Street is an amazing cultural ecosystem. And those buskers you are unhappy about? Constitutionally protected right here in the good ole USA.

            We’ve been a city of immigrants as long as we have been a city, but the culture of the underlying city still maintains its own flavor. People coming here from somewhere else is nothing new. This particular wave has hit us hard, not because they come from elsewhere, but because so many of us were forcibly relocated, so it’s been out of balance. Still, the city will prevail. The newcomers will tire of the crime and the dysfunction, or they will adjust and understand. People come and go, but the city draws them back.

            I have a front row seat for what goes on on Frenchmen Street, Maybe you do, too. I don’t know, but I won’t be ignorant enough to claim I do.

          • PhilButt

            Since we are giving history lessons here is another one. This same scenario played out in Jackson Square years ago. It got out of control. The city regulated it. They now issue 200 artist permits a year that cost $175. No one can just roll up and open up shop. As for those buskers and musicians in the square…they dont set up in people’s doorways. The Frenchmen Street patrol has never fucked with the brass band even though they literally put The Brazilian Taco Truck in the old Cafe Brazil side space out of business. Have they hassled some guys blocking sidewalks and entryways? Probably. And those are the people who are complaining about being hassled.
            For every newcomer that tires of crime there are 10 more arriving. Everyone knows Frenchmen is unregulated. It has become a beacon for street hustlers and wannabe artists not just in the city but the country! I give kudos to the business owners for doing something about, even though it pisses people like you off.
            There is always going to be someone who is unhappy. That is just human nature. Cant make everyone happy. The musicians who are crying about being underpaid, most of those guys are the ones no one cares about. If you are a good musician in a good band playing good music people want to hear regularly on Frenchmen, you are going to do alright.
            I see that shit play out all the time. A LOT of these musicians who cry about shit are straight drunks and drug addicts. They dont practice, they dont learn new shit, they play the same tired ass sets over and over for YEARS! You have 15 bands that play the exact same set! And then they act like they are owed something?? No one is owed anything man. Not the buskers or the musicians or the grill guys or the hustlers or even the club owners. Everyone has to work hard. All of the people who have worked hard to make Frenchmen what it is are not going to lay back and let any old person conduct unregulated business. That is what this fight is about. And it will be a long fight, so be prepared to write lots of comments from your front row seat.

          • kmsoap

            I wouldn’t go so far as to say it “pisses me off”, and it sounds like you are off down that rabbit hole again. Nothing productive is going to happen when all you do is spew anger. Check back in when you can hold a reasonable discourse. Or not.

          • kmsoap

            Oh, and nobody put Rubens out of business but Rubens, with his racially directed tweets. You do realize that pizza box he puts on the street is illegal, right? Where is the outrage?

          • PhilButt

            Sometimes spewed anger is the natural response to spewed bullshit. I dont know anything about racial tweets, but I am certain that the tweets didnt have nearly as much of an effect on his business as a brass band in the doorway did. How are we to have a productive conversation when everything you say is nonsense? People stopped going in the Taco Truck because of his tweets? Seriously? Give me a break. Look at Vaso’s Yelp reviews. Doesnt stop tourists from going in there. You think tourists were looking at the dudes tweets? Come on.
            As for a pizza box on the street, that doesnt outrage me. The true street culture never outraged me either. What perturbs me is all these out of town interlopers who have popped up in recent years that have flooded the street and ruined it for everyone. I hate that the businesses have had to hire police. But something had to be done because it was spiraling out of control. The city was never going to do anything.

          • kmsoap

            And the sky is falling again.

            Private groups hiring private police to selectively enforce laws (see abovementioned pizza box) against certain people is like a drug dealer hiring thugs to protect his turf. Maybe the street vendors should start a kickstarter and hire their own patrol.

          • PhilButt

            The street vendors cant do that because they have NO legal stake. The businesses rent or own their spaces. They pay taxes. They have a say on what goes on in front of these places they legally pay for. On just about every single street ‘in this country’ if a street vendor set up a grill outside of a restaurant they would be either shooed away or arrested in an hour. In this case it doesnt happen because our police force sucks. That doesnt just apply to enforcing the rules on Frenchmen, it applies across the board. They suck. Just like you argument.

          • kmsoap

            And nearly every one of those businesses is breaking the law in some form or another. Why can’t a group of private citizens band together to hire a police force to enforce the laws the city will not? There are licensing and permitting issues, they are blocking public parking spaces with barricades, virtually nobody is following the closed door regulation and there’s that pizza box. Why are the laws that are important to you OK to defend with private policing, but others are not?

            I’m not opposed to most of the things happening on the street. I probably would never have paid any notice to the pizza box if the patrols were not hired. I like the doors open and the music on the street. But if we want to play the enforcement game, the clubs have some pretty dirty hands. Heck, most of them are not even clubs.

            If the club owners were to be honest with themselves, the thing that is pushing people on to the street is the smoking ban. The change was almost instantaneous. And the FMTBA did not say one word when that law was going through the process.

          • PhilButt

            You are correct. The clubs are all breaking laws in some capacity. If the FMIA or some property owners or residents decided to hire police to enforce the laws the clubs break your argument would be valid. Sure they could do that. Would be interesting.
            But the crusty guy fresh off a freight train from Cleveland selling homemade jewelry and shitting in residents doorways or the guy setting buildings on fire with his grill has no legal grounds or claim to the street nor do they have any right to be there.
            As for the smoking ban, sure it had an effect. But people are naturally going to gravitate to the street. Any entertainment district in the world is going to be like that because people are constantly moving. With so many options in such close proximity if people are bored for a second they will leave seeking something more exciting. Closing the doors wont change that. It would only diminish what the street already is! There is no turning back the clock! It is what it is now. And in 10 years it will probably be something completely different from what it is now. There is a lot more room for development and if there is one penny left to be made you best believe someone is going to figure out how to try and make it.
            Jan’s article is a fairy tale written by someone who is completely out of touch who longs for some romanticized idea of what the street used to be, and there isnt much in it that is realistic at all.

          • kmsoap

            I guess I am missing your point. What’s the offensive part of this? Being from Cleveland? Making jewelry? Oh, wait…the shitting in the doorway part! And I can absolutely assure you that if someone is vending or making music in a doorway, they are not dropping their pants and shitting there. At least pretend you have some kind of understanding of the way this could possibly happen. Or maybe just suggest someone check their cameras.


            What makes the FMTBA or the FMIA any different than an association of street performers? Who grants this additional privilege that allows some groups to hire a private police force when others cannot?

          • PhilButt

            Yes you are COMPLETELY missing my point. You do realize neighborhoods all over this country hire private security companies right? And this is not unique to Frenchmen right? Here are some examples for you:


            The reason why they do this is because they have A STAKE in the area. They rent or own property. What stake does some vagabond artist have where they can hire police? Your argument is so stupid man. It’s really hard to not continue to get mad at you ignorance.
            And I have seen that video you posted. No comparison. You said you were at the Frenchmen meeting right? Did you not hear the guy who owns the coffee shop say he stepped in human shit in his doorway? There is a band in his doorway or someone selling something just about every night after he closes. He isnt entitled to do something about it?

          • kmsoap

            Actually, I discussed it at length with Kenny. Even he knows it was probably not the musicians making a mess of his stoop. And he mentioned he had cams, so I assume he checked them. Give me a better idea of what you think transpired. Did someone just tell the banjo player to take a solo so he could take a dump in front of their audience?

            It’s far more likely this was “Offbeat Man” or one of the other native New Orleanian beggars. Or maybe some frat boy who has no respect for anything this side of Canal Street. And I think you know that.

          • kmsoap

            And you really do not understand that you may be club owners, but that does not entitle you to special rights. If your special interest group can hire private enforcement to protect your interests, so can anyone else’s. The examples you cite back that up. Someone’s breaking laws, and it’s obviously OK for some group besides City Hall to pay for selective enforcement. That group does not have to be FMTBA, and the laws enforced could be any of the many being violated in the street every night.

          • PhilButt

            I didnt say it was the band that took a shit in the guys doorway. The patrol isnt only to harass the bands and artists. Its also to keep whomever might be shitting in doorways from doing so. It’s easy to pin it on the Offbeat guy but you dont know who it was either. Couldve been a tourist.
            I didnt hire anyone. But I agree with it. I was tired of walking in the street because the sidewalks were too crammed with makeshift tables. The bands draw crowds that create bottle necks for cars and pedestrians. If there are going to be bands on the street they should close the street to traffic. Frenchmen isnt going to get any less busy. It just keeps growing. Eventually you wont be able to have bands playing and cars and people walking at the same time. It is going to be too crowded. It already takes someone a half hour to drive the 500-600 block on a saturday night.
            And you are right. Anyone else can totally hire security to protect their ‘interests’. But these people have NO interests on Frenchmen.

          • kmsoap

            The only time I run into extreme congestion is when I am passing venues and their gaggles of smokers. Maybe that’s why it feels so crowded to you…because you see your crowd from the inside and do not realize that there are wide open spaces up and down the block.

            Closing the street to traffic just inconveniences the customer, puts cabbies out of work and makes it harder for performers and employees to get to and from their gigs. It would also eliminate four block faces of parking spaces, and we can’t really afford that. Is it a slow crawl? Yes. Which is why virtually all the traffic on the street is there with a purpose. And because it is so slow, there’s not a lot of pedestrian/vehicle conflict. Everyone has plenty of time to stop or get out of the way.

            Please don’t forget that Frenchmen is still a public street. It’s not your gated community. We all have interests on Frenchmen Street, and working together to make it work for everyone should be the ultimate goal.

          • janramsey

            Butt, all of the Best of The Beat Awards are nominated by musicianss, voted on by musicians and also the public. I don’t give awards to anyone. It constantly amazes me how apathetic people are in this city and then how they can bitch when their “choices” aren’t considered. You don’t nominate, you get left out. You don’t vote, you get left out. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The ones who need to squeak should do so or shut up. And BTW, OffBeat has been on Frenchmen Street way longer than you’ve worked here .

  • Webb1957

    “Raise the quality of music on Frenchmen St”?? There is absolutely nothing wrong with the quality of music. NOTHING. I could spend the next half hour listing the terrific music that’s found on Frenchmen every night of the week. It’s far and away the most musically diverse entertainment center I personally know of. That, to me, is a ridiculous statement especially from someone as knowledgeable as Jan Ramsey.

    • HolyNOLA

      You gotta be kidding me. “Uptown Funk” is played on Frenchmen St. every hour on the hour, but I’ve never heard it Uptown.

      • Webb1957

        Then stay out of the clubs that hire only cover bands, and go to the Spotted Cat or Three Muses or Snug Harbor or dba or Blue Nile or 30/90 or Apple Barrel. Do you really have to be told where to go? You can’t possibly be a Frenchmen St regular.

        • HolyNOLA

          I sure am. I avoid Cafe Negril and Maison. A band doesn’t have to be Bag of Donuts to play a set that’s 75% covers. Maybe Jan should push the clubs to ban cover songs!

  • Truthseeker

    This article is pure fantasy and contains nothing that could actually be applied. It is so funny to listen to people who have zero clue about the actual realities of doing business on Frenchmen AND Bourbon offer their solutions on how to fix it. It’s like listening to a cashier at Walmart talk about how to fix the economy.
    Asking ALL the clubs to close their doors and charge a cover? Asking the French Market to build a multi million dollar parking garage and NOT charge to park in it? Sheer nonsense! Have the businesses on the street EVER agreed on ANYTHING?? And you think they will agree to ALL charge a cover? That is laughable. Someone wouldnt agree to it and they would be the busiest place on the street. And so even suggesting this is ridiculous. I dare you to take that one to the club owners.
    When was the last time you walked down Bourbon Jan? If it was a year ago and you walked down now it would look completely different. Businesses come and go all the time because of the outrageous rents and the competitive nature of the street. THAT is why there are barkers and no cover charges. And that is why Frenchmen is going that route. It is VERY expensive to do business on either one of these streets.
    As for ‘raising the quality of music’, what does this even mean? Have you been on Frenchmen lately Jan? The music is better than it ever was! Making a statement like that is an insult to all the musicians that play on Frenchmen regularly. Sure there are some new clubs that have no clue how to book their venues and will book some garbage, but overall Frenchmen is awash in great music. And people come here from all over the world to hear it. Is there an issue with musicians pay? Sure there is. But is that only on Frenchmen? Is there somewhere else in the world where ALL musicians are making a living? Nope. If you surveyed all of the musicians in the world, how many are actually doing well? I would venture to guess it is less than .9999999%. If you apply that statistic to Frenchmen…the average is probably WAY higher than the rest of the world. To think that somehow we can make it so that ALL the musicians are making a living is preposterous. There are always going to be musicians that just arent good and dont resonate with people. Does that mean they arent going to complain? Nope.
    There are lots of musicians in this city that do well. Probably more per capita than in any place in the world. Yes things could be done to make it better for musicians, but to think there is a realistic elixir that can fix all these problems is pure naivety. And perpetrating like this solution is as easy as you suggest only adds to the problem.

    • AmyGeorge

      Have you even been to a burlesque show in the last ten years? The dancers are professionals (some have even performed with professional ballet companies), many times they use live local musicians (including *jazz* musicians of the likes new orleans is oh-so-famous for). And they are fun. If it’s not your thing, don’t go. But don’t try to ban my entertainment options.

      And your suggested control for live music on Frenchman street? Closed doors and covers for all? Frenchman is magical precisely because of the sounds emanating on that street. I hear something new every time I go. Shouldn’t we be glad that some tourists ate making their way off bourbon street and experiencing more of this city?

      These are professional musicians and performers livelihoods you are suggesting curtailing.

      Be less afraid and you might find more joy in our city.

    • AmyGeorge

      Truthseeker–sorry. I didn’t mean for that to look like it was directed at you! I was responding to the author of the article, not to your comments. Ack.

  • Christopher Lane

    So if 1950s Bourbon Street was so great Jan, maybe we should just wander back into history and go see it again. Let’s see… we’ve got the most famous burlesque scene in the world at that time, we’ve got strict racial segregation that keeps all the business white-only, and we’ve got an underground prostitution, gambling & loan sharking scene that’s winked at by the police and run by the Mob. OK, so you wish Frenchman was like the Bourbon St of the 1950s. And as you close this article you just toss out “Oh and ban burlesque”.

    Hey Jan, we can all see your Klan robe hanging out of your pant suit. Go to a Trump rally or something and save your time on writing this garbled nonsense.

  • DDJ

    Why not have burlesque? Burlesque dates back to New Orleans since the 1940s with dancers performing alongside live bands when Bourbon St. was considered ritzy and fashionable. It’s part of our culture and interest isn’t declining. People love them. Local people love them and go to see shows every week. I would agree that avant garde performance art style neo-burlesque wouldn’t fit in to the Frenchmen scene, but as larger clubs are being built on Frenchmen we’re seeing larger stages that can accommodate an amazing classic live band burlesque show; which is something that isn’t as common in this town as it should be in my opinion. Additionally, burlesque brings a selling point for patrons to walk in to venues as well as an incentive to raise the cover charge, which means more work and higher pay for local musicians and entertainers. Overall, a well executed classic burlesque show on Frenchmen St. would provide what many consider an authentic New Orleans experience and a beautiful nod to the legends of the past.

  • Hermann789

    1. I’d like to see the hard numbers on the ratio of tourists to locals on Frenchmen. 10/90 to 90/10? Really?

    2. No burlesque? Why? Too immoral? Too offensive to you?

    3. I have news for you: Live music in bars has always been about selling alcohol. Your weird delusion that music venues were all about the music upends the reality. It seems like a romantic bit of insanity about a New Orleans that never existed. Perhaps there were, at some point in our past, music venues that charged for music but gave away drinks, but I doubt it.

    4. Mandatory cover charges? That will never happen. Never. This proposal also seems geared to making sure that only ‘The Right People’ get into the clubs. Trying to keep out the riffraff, eh?

    5. More police on Frenchmen Street? The city does not even have enough police officers to follow up on murders, rapes, and assaults, and you want cops on Frenchmen? Your lack of reality is shown by the Healing Center remark; I have never seen a police officer in or around that satellite office. Neither has anyone else I know. It was a cute little bit of PR, but it’s just for show.

    What a mess of a piece.

  • Donald Frump

    We need to make Frenchmen great again!! This article is a bad mess of ideas based on some romanticized version of the street that never existed before. Are you really trying to say the music was somehow better in the past than it is now? When was the last time you were actually IN a club on Frenchmen after dark Jan to make this statement? Answer me that. For someone with a lot of opinions dont you think you should base them on firsthand experience rather than just other peoples opinions. You are extremely out of touch with the actual music scene you cover.

  • bob

    Frenchman district must support quality music and musicians ( IE. $$).
    This is the culture that draws tourists to NOLA.

  • Mike Altee

    damn…alls Jan Ramsey does is wanna help…and ya’ll wanna rag on her and get snarky

  • Scott

    Jan, thanks for bringing this up, I’ve been thinking about it for several years as well. In that time I’ve also tried to think of ways to fix it, but I could never think of things to change that wouldn’t adversely impact some of my favorite things about Frenchman.

    First, regarding the mandatory covers: some of the best nights I’ve had on Frenchmen were those where I’ve spent equal amounts of time at all of the free clubs on the street. In 3-4 hours I could go to Spotted Cat, Apple Barrel, and Cafe Negril, or at least 2 of the 3, as the cover charge varied. No matter how much you know about local music, there are so many acts, and it was always risky paying for a cover without knowing exactly what the crowd and band would be like, and on a shoestring college budget, we were essentially stuck wherever we landed if we committed to a cover of $5 or more, even if the band turned out to be not very good. I probably wouldn’t fight this idea if i at least knew that clubs could charge as low as $1, although i’m not sure if that’s viable–the cost of door workers+plastic bracelets might be too high for a small venue to charge $1 per person. Maybe the restriction only affects clubs with x level of occupancy.

    Secondly, I agree with the reasoning of keeping crowds out of the street, but some of the best moments of my life were had on the street. Nothing can top seeing young prodigies in rival brass bands battle on the street at the Chartres intersection. Although it could potentially take away from support of the clubs, the sometimes amateur-playing and cacophony aspects might make it tough to stick around for more than 20 minutes, and I never did; I needed to refill my drink anyway. I also have to believe that this was invaluable training for the musicians that were there. As long as the bands are young amateurs, I think this is a really positive possibility for the street. I don’t know if any club currently has a drink window, but preemptively prohibiting those in addition to strip clubs would be helpful.

    As far as the police presence goes, I’ve seen the police shut down these corner bands before.

    I once thought of restriction on decibel limits or electronic gear, but DJ Black Pearl upstairs at the Blue Nile is one of the best spots for hiphop in the city, and has been for a really long time, so it wouldn’t make sense for that to be affected. Maybe there can also be a prohibition of karaoke, but that targets a problem that I don’t think exists yet.

    I would like to see most of what you address here enacted though, and desperately hope for Frenchmen to be a little more like it used to be.


    • kmsoap

      An excellent and well thought out reply. You address something vitally important, which is what is right with Frenchmen Street.

      I’m not a fan of creating barriers to entry, but if a cover must be charged to support the music, let’s change the current permitting scheme and make it happen. In order to address your concerns, perhaps several clubs can band together to offer a single cover for multiple venues.

  • Nolapartimer

    My first home is Nashville, my second home is New Orleans. We have the same growth problem here now on Broad. Venues with loud music, no cover charge and a five lane road with lots of traffic. But, we also have listening rooms like the Bluebird Cafe, Douglas Corner and City Winery where a cover charge is the standard. AND if you talk during the Bluebird shows, you are asked to leave or as the signs say, “Shhhhhhhhh”. They still sell enough food and drinks to make it profitable. It’s a very difficult line to walk when your city is growing by leaps and bounds.

  • Terry Reeves

    I’d like to respectfully add a “foreigner’s” point of view to the discussion. I’m from downstate Illinois and have visited New Orleans on a regular basis (yearly) for 30+ years. For most of those years, I made it to Bourbon St. at least once per visit, but the frequency…and time spent there…decreased over the years. Most of us outgrow our “knuckle-dragging” habits on Bourbon St., but still crave good music and a good drink. I always knew about Frenchmen St., but never considered it a destination…until the TV show “Treme”. For some reason, the show made the area seem approachable for us outsiders. Since then, we’ve been numerous times and last July introduced my 22 year old son to the scene. At his request, we went two nights in a row. Seeing the Jazz Vipers on Monday was a must-do for me, but we also stumbled upon Darryl Staves’ debut with Donald Harrison,Jr. at Snug Harbor. I don’t pretend to know how to solve your local problem, but here are some thoughts that may keep us visitors from f’ing up your national treasure. 1) A friendly police presence. If it ain’t totally broke, don’t let it get that way. We’ve never felt unsafe or threatened on Frenchmen…but we tried to not make stupid, tourist mistakes. 2) Unobtrusive signs (done by local artists) that remind tourists to BE RESPECTFUL OF THE MUSICIANS. Tip them. Don’t tell your life story while they play. Don’t expect karaoke. 3) Require some type of real ticket. Doesn’t have to be an expensive ticket, but, making the effort to secure a ticket to a performance means “this is serious music”, not just some random party band better suited for the wild-ass party clubs. 4) Except for said venue tickets, stay Cash Only for food and alcohol (and I would HATE this as much as anybody). IMO, however, this will help curtail the number of “expense account” types who are there to entertain people (instead of leaving that to the professional musicians) and feel entitled to special treatment because they’re spending $$$$ on a company credit card. Nothing like having to have your own wad of Jacksons, Lincoln’s and Washington’s to get a Crown and Coke to balance out the fans from the gawkers. 5) Burlesque Shows. If it tips its hat to NOLA history, and, HAS A LIVE BAND, they why not…I’m all for free enterprise. 6) Retail. Again, I’m for free enterprise but keep it real. Require a band to play while you’re selling t-shirts and pralines. 6) Don’t let the strip grow geographically and keep it what it is. Do you really want the county fair to become Jazzland? Thanks for the opportunity to weigh-in. We (visitors) care that you care.

    • kmsoap

      You bring up some interesting points. Many of them have been made in some fashion in the past, but your comment about cash sales is something I never considered. You are absolutely right.

  • Gi O Neworleans

    Some great suggestions, but you ae wrong about FMIA killing the parking garage

    • kmsoap

      They certainly did not embrace it at the height needed to bring it forth.

      And you have been known to use my support for additional height waiver for that proposal as disparaging words, so I suspect they saw the obstructionist writing on the wall.

  • Jjazznola

    Burlesque, not strip or “gentleman’s” clubs on Frenchman is a great idea! Maybe in the old Cafe Brazil! This is the most comments that I have ever seen here. I agree with some of the points made but I do think that you are somewhat living in the past. And when exactly was there better music on Frenchman? Sure there is a bit of top 40/karaoke/junk but I cannot remember a time when there was more decent music there than right now and I’ve been going there since the early 90s! And I love being able to go from club to club without always having to pay a cover. If every club did charge a cover, there would be way less people down there. I don’t see the club owners complaining! Change is part of life. Anyone past their 20s knows this.

  • janramsey

    I’m so glad this stirred up a lot of discussion, because that’s GOOD. I referred to Jim Peters, who’s been a consultant to cities all over the world. This is where most of these ideas came from. I myself think burlesque would be fine, but there are always unscrupulous business people who will take it too far and we’d see gentlemens’ clubs. Actually “adult entertainment” is totally prohibited in the old Frenchmen Street Cultural overlay. But then there are only supposed to be so many bars who can present live music. The biggest problem is enforcement.