Faubourg St. John Discusses Short Term Rentals

Lisa Amoss writes, “This is a problem that is rapidly spiraling out of control. While, in our post-Katrina recovery and rebuilding mode, we haven’t been paying attention, our neighborhood (and many others) have been invaded by short-term rentals and they are drastically changing our character and culture. I am NOT talking about neighbors renting out rooms in the homes they occupy, nor about anyone occasionally renting out the entire home they occupy for Jazz Fest while they are out of town. I am talking about developers coming in and buying up multiple houses, then renting them out as a business venture. These are hotels in residential neighborhoods. They are creating parking and noise problems on our residential blocks, and they are helping to drive up housing prices so that young families cannot afford to buy homes here any more. Our neighborhood is becoming increasingly occupied by transients who have no vested interest in keeping this a vibrant, diverse and safe place to live. If your block has not yet experienced this, there are many in FSJ that have. And it’s changing faster than you can imagine. ”

Cynthia Scott writes, “The ‘hotel’ on my block has now graduated to an events rental venue. Last week, for 3 or 4 days running, the space was rented to someone from Tales of the Cocktail for a daily party from early afternoon to 7 pm each day, with a DJ blasting extremely loud hip hop and other music and a constant stream of people being ferried from the CBD to the location via Uber. A week or two earlier the space was rented for the day to a HUUUUUGE (to paraphrase a certain candidate) birthday party which drew people from all over the city, with cars racing up and down our one-way street and parking in people’s driveways. They departed by sundown, so neither of these rentals could be considered a “home rental” by any definition.


brinkman_j_lgby Emile J. Brinkmann

intlunionI am submitting these comments in connection with the City Planning Commission’s reconsideration of the issue of Short-Term Rentals (STRs) in Orleans Parish, and the City Council’s directive that a proposed zoning ordinance be drafted. As a point of background, I am the retired Chief Economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington and spent years running a research group dedicated to housing and housing finance issues. I have appeared on all of the major network and cable news shows, and have been quoted in newspapers through the US and other countries. Even though I retired and moved back to New Orleans two years ago, I am still the US representative on the executive committee of the International Union of Housing Finance, a 100-year old organization dedicated to housing issues around the world.

strdestructionBased on my background, I cannot think of an action that would be more destructive to the fabric of our neighborhoods and the well-being of our homeowners than the legalization of STRs for the benefit of a few, thereby rewarding those who take advantage of a lack of enforcement to violate existing laws with impunity. In Part One of my comments, I will make three basic points about the negative economic effects on homeowners. In Part Two I will address comments that have been made to the effect that AirBNB, VRBO, and similar operations are like Uber and are merely part of the growth of the so-called sharing economy.

Part One
1) STRs fundamentally upset residential valuations by introducing unsustainable commercial valuations into residential neighborhoods.
We have already seen home prices in historically significant neighborhoods increase at rates far in excess of the local incomes needed to support those prices. A significant portion of those home price increases are due to ability of some of the properties to earn upwards of 20 percent to 25 percent return on investment through illegal renting. This is great news if you already own a home in one of these areas and will be selling soon. Because the Assessor’s Office has no way to separate out house sales for STR usage, this is great news if you are the city collecting residential property taxes based on values inflated by STR commercial use. It is bad news if you are trying to buy or rent in Mid-City, Treme, the Bywater, or other impacted neighborhoods in order to live in the city.

It is terrible news if you are a long-term resident with no intention of moving, but are now faced with an annual property bill driven up by the valuation effects of illegal renting.

The valuation and property tax problem will likely be exacerbated by the idea that the city can mitigate the negative impact of STRs by limiting the number allowed per block face. The owner of the first one on the block makes a killing, and the value of that property goes up. However, the other owners on the block not only have to deal with the disruptions caused by the STRs and the higher property taxes, they are precluded from selling at the higher STR-driven prices because no other STRs will be allowed on their block (assuming for the sake of argument that the city would actively enforce density limitations). Therefore, the idea that the negative impacts of STRs can somehow be ameliorated by reducing the permitted densities can actually make more people worse off from a valuation perspective.

Given the instability of this structure and the lack of equitable treatment in terms of valuation and who is allowed an STR and who is not, I do not believe density limits would survive legal or political challenges, and are therefore not a viable option to prohibition.

Crown Point neighborhood signsThe result is that if you are a New Orleans resident with no intention of selling and moving, you would not only face the prospect of having weekly fraternity parties next door, you get to pay higher property taxes for the privilege. The result is that if you are looking to buy, you risk over-paying and being underwater on your mortgage if something were to happen suddenly to impact negatively the STR business, as will be covered in the next point.

2) Short-term Rentals directly inject the business risk of tourism into residential neighborhoods.
keepneighborsHotel owners and operators are accustomed to the business risks associated with the travel and hospitality industry. These risks are reflected in their operational plans, capital investments, and equity and debt financing costs. They understand that in a recession, travel is disproportionately impacted as businesses cut back on discretionary travel as a first response. They learned in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that terrorism can interrupt air travel, and that even when flights are restored, companies will impose travel restrictions on key personnel.

In New Orleans and other hurricane-impacted areas, they have learned that even the threat of a storm, with or without a mandatory evacuation, can cause their rooms to empty and disrupt operations for some time. (As a side note, would operators of STRs be required to maintain enforceable hurricane evacuation policies for their guests, or would responsibility for these visitors fall on the city?)

In contrast, the health of the hospitality industry has a more muted impact on the traditional residential housing market in New Orleans. Tourism is only one of the legs of the New Orleans economy, and there are other legs to support the New Orleans jobs market and home prices. STRs, however, directly inject the risk of the tourism market into every neighborhood of the city where they exist. Demand for houses and high prices exist when owners can earn high returns, but what happens in a downturn? What happens when tourism suddenly slows for one of any number of predictable and unpredictable reasons? What happens is what we have seen in other housing markets dominated by investors and speculators. At the first sign of a reversal, they sell with a vengeance, driving down prices and leaving the long-term residents suffering the consequences of rapidly falling prices and “For Sale” signs everywhere. If the properties are leveraged, they can sit for months and years as they work their way through the mortgage foreclosure (and probably bankruptcy) process, further depressing values.

Real estate speculation is a fact of life. Some people win and some people lose. When a strip mall goes bankrupt on Airline Highway, the negative consequences (other than to the property’s owners and lenders) are limited to having one more eyesore around town. When that speculation, however, is driven by STRs and is occurring in some of the city’s most important and historic residential neighborhoods, the negative consequences of a drop in tourism will go right to the hearts of these neighborhoods, and will be much more severe and widespread than any normal downturn.

3) Weekly bachelor parties are more than a nuisance. They represent a real loss of value for the neighbors.
Many of the comments presented to the CPC and the City Council on this issue have dealt with the horror stories of late night parties and the problems that occur when out-of-towners believe that they can freely extend the revels of Bourbon Street to the residential neighborhood where they have rented a house for the weekend. The problems go far beyond loss of sleep, frustration with the inability of an under-staffed NOPD to deal with noise issues, and the absence of a private right of action to move against the owners of the offending properties. They represent a real loss of value to anyone attempting to sell an impacted home to anyone other than an STR operator. (I do not know whether the failure to disclose a nearby nuisance STR in a real estate declaration has been tested in a Louisiana court, but I am fairly certain it would be actionable in other jurisdictions.)

The logical outcome is that once an STR opens on a block, the only informed sales that would not be negatively impacted by the existence of the STR would be those to another STR operator. As already noted, however, such a sale would be prohibited if density limitations were put in place as part of an attempt to make STRs politically palatable.

This points again to the utter fallacy of putting any faith in density limitations. The idea that the CPC and the City Council would not be inundated with requests for exceptions, and that many of those requests would be granted, simply ignores political reality. That assumes, of course that the many illegal operators of STRs would even apply for exemptions to the density limits. The reality is that the city has failed for years to deal with illegal STRs. Based on this history, it is reasonable to expect that any density limits would be ignored or gutted in a few years.

keepneighborhoodsIn conclusion, the adoption of a legal STR framework for residential neighborhoods, particularly for non-owner occupied structures, would have tremendous and largely irreversible negative impacts on the fundamental character of the city for years to come. Ignoring the quality of life issues, the economics alone will lead to a further hollowing out of the city’s full-time residents. Homeowners will see that the rational action is to sell. They would avoid both the higher property taxes and the risk of a speculative bubble bursting with downturn in the tourism industry.

Part Two
AirBNB is not like Uber
It has often been argued that AirBNB and similar operations are nothing more than Uber for houses, that they are simply one part of an irreversible movement toward a shared economy where technology brings together the buyers and sellers of various services. At their best, such arguments are facile and do not stand up to even a modest amount of economic scrutiny. At their worst, they are a bald-faced attempt to direct attention away from what is illegal activity by saying that it is no different from what everyone else is doing in other areas of the economy. In reality, the only similarity between Uber and AirBNB is that both rely heavily on computers and smart phones.

Uber is an example of what the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter described as “creative destruction”. The idea is that in a capitalist system, economic growth occurs when innovators put their money behind new ideas for goods and services. While the creative process is the key for creating new markets and new opportunities, it comes at the cost of destroying old products and services, and the capital invested in delivering those old goods and services.

A prime example is Blockbuster versus Netflix. Blockbuster invested huge sums in brick and mortar stores and an inventory of video tapes, and later DVDs, to fill the shelves in those stores. It had a large complement of employees to man the cash registers and stock those shelves. Along came Netflix with the idea that people could go to their computers, select what titles they wanted to see, and have the DVDs delivered a few days later by the postal carrier. Immediately successful, the service Netflix created began the destruction of the hundreds of millions of dollars Blockbuster had invested in its system. Later, when Netflix switched to streaming content, it effectively destroyed the capital Netflix itself had invested in DVDs and its mail order business.

In Uber’s case, it challenged the existing way of summoning a taxi, as well as introducing a model that matched supply and pricing to peak periods of demand. Uber was challenging the economic model of the taxi business, but, more importantly, it challenged the local regulatory framework for taxis that existed in each of the cities where it sought to operate. Its success has come in exposing and differentiating between those regulations that were necessary for the public’s protection and those regulations that merely existed to protect the status quo. After all, until Uber, the method of summoning a cab outside a hotel had not really changed since the 1800s. This is Schumpeter’s creative destruction process at work.

The key difference between Uber and AirBNB (and similar companies) is that there is nothing fundamentally illegal about the service Uber provides. Paying someone to take you in his or her car from Point A to Point B is not inherently illegal, provided appropriate licensing requirements are met. The only ones harmed by the Uber innovation are those invested in the old ways of doing business.

In contrast, AirBNB and similar services are providing technology platforms that offer services that are fundamentally illegal. The regulations of which AirBNB facilitates the violation are not there to protect capital invested in the hotel industry. Rather AirBNB is facilitating, for a profit, the violation of zoning laws that were enacted to protect individual homeowners from this type of commercial activity. If the only harm was to the established hotels and legal bed and breakfast establishments, it could be argued that AirBNB is just another example of Schumpeter’s creative destruction. However, the true harm and destruction is to the residents of the neighborhoods disrupted by the illegal short-term rentals. The residents of these neighborhoods do not have capital at risk in the hospitality industry like Marriott or Hilton. Rather the capital they have at risk is in homes that they trusted would be protected by zoning laws and the enforcement powers of the city government. It appears that trust was misplaced.

Therefore, AirBNB has nothing to do with Uber or Schumpeter’s growth through creative destruction, but is simply a case of making a fast buck at the expense of someone else by facilitating an illegal activity. The closest parallel to AirBNB is not Uber, but hiring prostitutes with Craig’s list.

Emile J. BrinkmannNO-short-term-rentals





An open letter to the Tales of the Cocktail Community regarding the effects of Short Term Rentals in New Orleans

Dear friends,

This open letter is not about AirBnB as such, but about the challenge of supporting your industry and community amidst new paradigms of travel and tourism. When Tales of the Cocktail was founded, we deliberately placed the event in July, one of the most difficult months for our local economy, in an effort to help increase revenue for New Orleans’ many hospitality businesses and employees. The hotels, bars, restaurants and thousands of hospitality workers they employ have been grateful for Tales of the Cocktail, and we want to continue to do right by them. In this spirit, we write to you today to help raise awareness about the effect short term rentals, such as AirBnB, are having on residents, business owners, and event producers, like ourselves.

Bar manager at Erin Rose, and former CAP, Rhiannon Enlil was given a notice of eviction last week, after four years in her apartment because her landlord wants to list the property on AirBnB. This is by no means an isolated incident. There are now over 4,316 AirBnBs operating in New Orleans.

“There are a finite number of homes in this city, and the demand is high for workers and residents who keep the economic engine running. If you allow short-term rentals to eat away at that supply, the appeal to live and work in this city diminishes. All of the visitors who use short-term rentals, who want to eat in our restaurants, listen to our live music, drink in our bars… who will serve them if we in the service and entertainment industry cannot afford to live here?”

Rhiannon Enlil
Erin Rose
Newly evicted tenant

This issue is also having a significant impact on the hotels and licenses B&B’s in New Orleans. Hotels are one of the longest standing harbingers of hospitality. They employ hundreds to thousands of people, provide insight and infrastructure to guests, and work with event organizers to facilitate events that would otherwise not be possible, such as Tales of the Cocktail. Every tasting room and seminar we facilitate is done so in a hotel, and it’s hard to imagine where else we could possibly produce so many events within one week. Because of our longstanding relationships with these hotels, we’re able to negotiate special rates for Tales attendees year after year. Hotels are experienced in the practice of hospitality, and legally qualified to accommodate our guests, whereas short term rentals, which are illegal in New Orleans, fundamentally upset residential valuations by introducing unsustainable commercial valuations into residential neighborhoods.

In this spirit, we encourage you to stay with one of our partnering hotels (or even another local hotel if you prefer), but please avoid staying at an AirBnB or other short term rental property that is not legally sanctioned to operate in New Orleans. Each short term rental takes revenue away from our own hospitality industry; if the hotels are operating below projected capacity, staff hours get cut, and employees get laid off. Tales of the Cocktail is one of many organizations in New Orleans working to have these illegal rentals addressed by our city government, but in the meantime, we encourage you to consider the matter for yourself. Everyone wants the best deal they can find, but sometimes the best deal results in an exceptionally rotten deal for everyone else. We employ you: help us keep locals in their homes and guests visiting our city in the many beautiful and hospitable hotels and B&Bs New Orleans has to offer. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you support this effort, please share this post.


Tales of the Cocktail

Thank you to our partnering hotels: Hotel Monteleone, Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans, Ace Hotel New Orleans, AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon, Bienville House, Bourbon Orleans Hotel, Dauphine Orleans Hotel, Hotel Le Marais, Hotel Mazarin, MOXY NOLA, Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, W New Orleans – French Quarter.

TODAY, Tuesday, June 14, at 1:30 p.m., the City Planning Commission will propose a CZO amendment to allow all categories of short-term rentals, and make short-term rentals permitted and conditional uses in all neighborhoods. The CPC Staff Preliminary Report makes these and other recommendations, and has little information on enforcement mechanisms to control and penalize illegal operators.
For information on today’s meeting and a link to the Preliminary Staff Report, please use the link, below – short-term rentals appear as agenda item 9.
Call the CPC at (504) 658-7033 before you go to make sure the vote will take place today and that there will be time for public input.
If you are able, please attend the 1:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, June 14 CPC meeting in City Council Chambers to voice your opinion. Thank you.

Preliminary Staff Report

St. John’s Eve Ceremony

St John’s Eve Ceremony


Thursday, June 23 at 7 PM

Voodoo on the BayouSt. John’s Eve Ceremony on the Magnolia Bridge over Bayou St John (across from Cabrini High School on Moss St. in New Orleans)

Sallie Ann Glassman and La Source Ancienne Ounfo celebrate St. John’s Eve with their annual Headwashing Ceremony (form of Vodou baptism) dedicated to Marie Laveau. Wear all white and bring a white scarf or rag for your head (It will get dirty.)

Bring an offering for Marie Laveau. She likes flowers, blue and white candles, Creole foods, hair ribbons and hair dressing supplies (She was a hairdresser.), Vodou-esque items (Voodoo dolls, potions, gris-gris bags, etc.), or images of Marie Laveau.

The ceremony will feature the beautiful sculpture of Marie Laveau by Ricardo Pustanio.

For more info, call Island of Salvation Botanica: (504) 948-9961.

Saint John’s Eve
By James Duvalier

Voodoo in New Orleans is much a solitary practice as compared to the religion in Haiti, but there is an exception: The Feast of Saint John the Baptist, which falls on the 24th of June. The feast day is celebrated in Haiti, and indeed throughout the Catholic world, but nowhere as intensely as in New Orleans. This feast is particularly popular in Francophone countries. In rural France, people light bonfires on Saint John’s Night and in Quebec, on the morning of the feast, an old superstition dictates that one collect drops of dew from leaves and grass to sprinkle around the house for good luck. Also, some believe that when applied to the face, this water will bless a person with a youthful appearance. In New Orleans, the Feast of Saint John is observed most intensely by Voodooists, perhaps as a remnant of a time when it was fêted more fervently by the general population. It is believed that on this night, the veil between the spirit world and the physical world is virtually nonexistent and communion with the ancestors, saints and lwa can be easily achieved. Curiously, a similar belief in the Galicia region of Spain holds that that the souls in Purgatory can return to Earth on that same night, since the mystical dividing veil is lifted. On the eve of Saint John’s Day, every Voodooist is expected to attend a communal drumming session in which members of the local community make food offerings to the ancestors and saints, and this is one of the rare occasions when animal sacrifices, usually chickens, are made by the presiding Voodoo Queen.. All Voodoo queens and doctors, if they are to remain in good standing with the spirits and the local community, are expected to attend a service on this night. The following is a description of the events that occur on this sacred night. The character names are fictitious and represent no persons living of dead, but the details of the ceremony are accurate.

Immediately following Easter, Evangeline carefully plans the sequence of events for the Fête de Saint Jean Baptiste. This year she will serve as presiding priestess over the ceremony, a role to which she was nominated by last year’s mistress of ceremonies, Muriel, her friend and fellow Voodoo Queen. Evangeline contacts all of her friends, family and acquaintances and inquires as to whether she can expect their presence on Saint John’s Eve. In the following weeks, she visits those planning to attend and collects donations to defray the cost of the ceremony. Then she secures a location for the gathering on the Bayou Saint John, where Marie Laveau conducted her infamous ceremonies, and obtains the necessary permits from the city. Then the drummers are hired and Evangeline buys the food and live animals necessary to make offerings to the spirits and to be consumed by the assembly.

The day before the ceremony, Evangeline and two close friends, Renee and Stacey, meet to prepare the food for the following evening. Renee and Stacey prepare such Southern and Creole classics as collard greens and fatback, spoon bread, hopping john, shrimp Creole, dirty rice and pulled pork, all to be consumed by the congregation. Only Evangeline, however, is permitted to prepare the ritual offerings for the spirits. She takes great care to make sure that no a single grain of salt comes into contact with the food offerings. She makes white rice, roasted pork spiced with black and cayenne pepper, grits, and a dish called “amala”, which is a slimly concoctions of chopped okra stewed with corn meal resulting a slippery mess, a taste and texture unappetizing to the human palate, but absolutely decadent to the spirit world. Evangeline thanks her friends and they leave with all the food that has been prepared, and it will be their responsibility to bring the offerings to the gathering the following night. All those expected to attend the service take special herbal baths at home the night before to rid themselves of negativity and neutralize their spiritual vibrations as to be able to fully receive the blessings of the saints and spirits.

Photos and video by Charlie London

On the afternoon of Saint John’s Eve, Evangeline’s friends arrive at the predetermined site and set up the wood pile that will become a massive bonfire. They arrange tables with the previously prepared food as the sacrificial chickens await their imminent death in cages resting on the ground. The drummers arrive shortly after and set up their musical equipment and in the late afternoon the guests start to arrive and socialize while they anticipate the presence of the mistress of ceremonies who is due to arrive at sundown.

When the last amber rays of summer sunlight retreat behind the tree tops, Evangeline arrives. She parks her car a short distance down the street, preferring to make her entrance on foot. Seeing Evangeline in the distance coming toward them, the guests form a semicircle and she takes her place in the center. She stands there for a moment in silence, dressed in white from head to foot resting her weight on the ribbon and bell bedecked baguette des morts. Then, she bangs the stick three times of the ground and makes the opening prayer, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The congregation makes the sign of the cross and responds “Amen.” Raising her outstretched palms toward Heaven, she cries, “faith, hope and charity,” the three virtues by which Voodooists are compelled to live. The congregation once again responds with a resounding “Amen” and with that, the ceremony has begun.

Renee and Stacey, Evangeline’s designated helpers from the previous day, come to meet her in the center of the circle. They are to hand her all supplies that she will need throughout the evening. Renee hands her a small vial of holy water that she herself had taken from the baptismal fount at her parish church earlier that day. While Evangeline sprinkles the ground around the soon-to-be ceremonial pyre the congregation softly recites the opening prayers in unison: The Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Apostles’ Creed, in that exact order. Stacey takes Evangeline’s baguette des morts and respectfully holds it while Evangeline tends to the preparation of the fire. The wood having been previously dowsed with kerosene will light without trouble, but Evangeline must first sprinkled the mound with a variety of dried herbs, some graveyard dirt and a few drops of holy water before it is torched. Meanwhile, Renee and Stacey trace a cross in the dirt next to the fire pit using a mixture of cornmeal, ground white eggshells, dust from a church and dirt from a graveyard and a crossroads. When Evangeline finishes consecrating the fire pit, she turns her attention to the cross that Stacey and Renee have prepared. She touches the ground three times and makes the sign of the cross. Then, from a pitcher, she spills water three times on the ground and says “pou mo-ye,” for the dead. Then Renee and Stacey bring her the dishes of food she personally prepared the previous day. With the dishes neatly placed at the four points of the cross, Evangeline declares “mange sec pou mo-ye,” dry eating for the dead. Voodoo pactitioners refer to food offerings as “mange sec” to distinguish them from animal sacrifices in which case the spilt blood is the offering, not the animal itself. The spirits and saints take the offerings of food and spilled blood and convert them into pure energy that is then used to grant their petitions and bring good luck and prosperity into their lives.

With the offerings all laid out, Evangeline takes a sip of rum and then spits in out onto the dirt floor altar in front of her. Then she places a small white taper in each dish of food. When the last taper is lighted, before placing at the center of the cross, Evangeline uses it to set the ceremonial pyre ablaze. The congregation claps and cheers and the drummers begin to play. The rest of the night is a pleasant combination of religious rituals and a friendly party atmosphere. The guests dance and eat traditional Creole specialties as well as drink beer and rum drinks. Throughout the course of the evening, they sing songs in Creole, French and English to call down the saints and ancestors. The spirits make take possession of whomever they choose, not just Evangeline. When a spirit or lwa touches a person and takes control of his body, the drumming stops and the congregation waits in silence for this person to speak. He or she comes forward and speaks to those assembled and gives instructions for spiritual workings to be carried out. The spirit, through the medium, will let the people know if the evil eye or any hexes have been placed on them. If this is found to be true, Evangeline immediately cleanses them of the evil eye or unclean spirits by passing a live chicken over their head and touching it to the palms and backs of their hands. Then, she snaps the chicken’s necks and slits its throat with a sharp knife, squeezing the animal until the last drop of blood is spilled on the ground. The chicken is then disposed of, since it cannot be eaten because the negative influence once on the person has been passed to the chicken.

As the night progresses, more spirits mount the guests and people ask favors of them and lay flowers and dollar bills at their feet to thank them for favors granted in the previous year. This night is one of the few occasions in New Orleans Voodoo where spirit possession takes place, and it is considered an honor to be touched by a spirit. As dawn approaches, Evangeline calls all the guests to the form a circle once again. She calls down her personal spirit guide who indicates the person who is to serve as next years presiding Vooodoo Queen at the fête de Saint Jean Baptiste. It is Stacey. Stacey readily agrees and they seal the new appointment with a kiss on each cheek. Renee retrieves Evangeline’s baguette des morts, which Evangeline once again bangs three times of the ground exclaiming, “faith, hope and charity.” “Amen,” responds the congregation. She strikes three more blows to the earth and prayers, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Another magnificent “Amen” rises up from the crowd. They all make the sign of the cross and head for home. The ceremony is over. Only Evangeline remains. She gathers the offerings of food and places them in the center of a cotton cloth, which she then ties up into a neat bundle. She collects the dollar bills strewn about the grounds, which she will donate later that day to a church or charitable organization. As she drives off, she is sure to take a different route than the one she used to get there, as not to let any bad spirits follow her home and ruin her luck. Quickly stopping at a crossroads, she leaves the cloth bundle with the food offerings for the spirits. She drives to her church where Renee and Stacey are waiting for her, and they attend an early morning mass together to celebrate the Feast of Saint John the Baptist.

While Evangeline, Stacey and Renee are fictitious characters, the rituals described in the above story are true and accurate. Other traditions may exist in various communities, since there is no set liturgy as in established churches, but in the Voodoo tradition, the feast of Saint John remains of the most important feasts of the year and is universally observed wherever Voodoo is practiced, be it in Haiti, New Orleans, Martinique or in Afro-Francophone communities in New York and Quebec. Nowhere, however is the tradition more intensely adhered to than in New Orleans. Perhaps this is due to the fact that in Louisiana, as opposed to the other locations mentioned, Francophone Creoles and Voodooists are an ever increasing minority, and the fact that enough people choose to practice this beautiful faith and gather each year to give thanks to God, the ancestors and the saints and be together as a community of believers is cause for celebration. In short, the fact that a people who have been told for centuries by the white Anglo establishment that their culture, language and faith are inferior have been able to hang onto the language spoken by their ancestors who toiled in the cane fields and practice a faith both brought over on slave ships and enriched by the prayers once sung in Latin from high church altars is in and of itself a miracle! The Voodoo faith, like those who profess it, is a Creole religion, and the concept of Creole is simple: A syllogism of drastically different elements melded to form a new and living reality. It is a religion of power and survival.

Article courtesy James Duvalier

Bodacious Boogaloo

by Charlie London


Since the beginning, the Bayou Boogaloo, held on the banks of Bayou St. John in New Orleans during May, has had a mission to give back to the community. The first Bayou Boogaloo in 2006 was a healing effort for the community. Many folks were still rebuilding their lives and their houses after “the storm”. The Bayou Boogaloo was a welcome respite from the daily grind. It provided much needed fun for both adults and children.

One of the often forgotten aspects of the Bayou Boogaloo is its emphasis on zero impact on the environment. I’ve personally witnessed the meticulous cleanup after the event. One would never know the music festival ever took place because the area is left as clean or cleaner than it was before the event.

The Bayou Boogaloo has promoted solar energy, recycling and encouraged folks to consider the environment. The Bayou Boogaloo has led by example. Several huge oak trees have been planted along the banks of Bayou St. John leaving a lasting positive impact on the environment and the community.

The Bayou Boogaloo gives back in other ways too! The event helps neighborhood organizations raise funds for their operations, has helped build playgrounds, has supported community sports initiatives, helped plant native habitat-building and erosion-preventing marsh grasses, and replaced trees lost during hurricanes.

The City even recognized the Bayou Boogaloo’s founder, Jared Zeller, with a proclamation for promoting an economically and environmentally sustainable event.

Join the Bayou Boogaloo this Friday, Saturday and Sunday May 20, 21, and 22. The Bayou Boogaloo is more than just a music festival, it’s a community building coalition!

More info at: http://thebayouboogaloo.com/

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

It’s been less than three weeks since the last notes rang out at the Fair Grounds to close the 2016 edition of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Not far away, bands will strike up again at the 11th Annual Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo. The free event is presented from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22, 2016 along the banks of Bayou St. John between Dumaine Street and N. Jefferson Davis Parkway. It features three main music stages at Dumaine Street, Orleans Avenue and Lafitte Street plus a Kids Stage that has both music and other activities to please the youngsters.

There are some excellent local and national headliners at the festival that didn’t perform at this year’s Jazz Fest including Nolatet (Sunday, 6 p.m.), The Lowrider Band (Saturday, 7:45 p.m.) and the Wailers (Friday, 7:45 p.m.).

Let’s start with Nolatet, a band of all-star jazz masters – drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, vibraphonist/percussionist Mike Dillon and pianist Brian Haas. This performance marks the first time many local people will have the opportunity to experience this group as they’ve only performed in New Orleans several times. Formed spontaneously in 2014 and quickly releasing its exciting debut album, Dogs (The Royal Potato Family) just this year, Nolatet has been out on tour promoting the CD and, according to Vidacovich, has been very well-received. “They liked it a lot – a lot more than I imagined,” he is quoted in OffBeat magazine. “I thought the music would be a little too orchestral. There’s a lot of things that we’re doing that are just out of the norm.”

“I can tell you what it sounds like to me sometimes when I’m involved with the music and my head is spinning,” he continued. “It reminds me of a circus and a Christmas tree with a lot of lights.”

Because pianist Haas, unlike the other members, doesn’t live in New Orleans, Nolatet is a get-it-while-you can band though all concerned express their hope and intent to do much more in the future.

Just an aside – it’s great to have Dillon, who absolutely floored the crowd at last year’s performance of his New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium – back at Bayou Boogaloo. Hopefully, the Consortium, an amazing collection of rhythm masters will return next year or be booked somewhere else soon.

The Lowrider Band, which partly due to the presence of one-time Crescent City resident, drummer Harold Brown, feels almost like its from New Orleans. It’s also got that funk and street band attitude that music lovers here can really relate to. The last time the Lowriders performed in New Orleans was in 2009 at a benefit for the Save Charity Hospital organization. Now that’s awhile ago…

The band is, of course, made up of original members of the group War, including Brown, the great harmonica player Lee Oskar, guitarist Howard Scott and bassist B.B. Dickerson, who, because of health issues will be unable to perform with his fellow Lowriders. Due to a court order, nobody in the group is allowed to mention their participation in War in any promotional material or advertisements. Fortunately, these talents have been able to retain their rights to their compositions and receive royalties.

“Here’s how we say it,” Brown explained. “We are the original composers of and performers on ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?,’ ‘The Cisco Kid,’ ‘The World is a Ghetto,’ and ‘All Day Music.’ All our friends know the Lowriders. Everybody knows exactly who we are.”

“When we come to play in New Orleans it’s like playing at home in our living room,” Brown once proclaimed. “You can drop all of your big shot attitudes. In New Orleans they want to know about your soul – your spirit. I tell people when they come into the city, to turn off the radio and roll down the windows.”

The socially conscious messages of tunes like Bob Marley’s “One Love” are much needed in today’s world. The Wailers keep that warmth, the much-loved classic songs and laid-back reggae riddims alive. Bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett is the only member of the touring band that performed and recorded with the group that backed the late, legendary Bob Marley who influenced the world with the magic of his music and his pen. Barrett was the heartbeat of the rock steady beat, the sound that could be felt to one’s core. Reggae by the Bayou seems so right.

Our local stars like bassist George Porter & the Runnin’ Pardners (Sunday, 4 p.m.), the Queen of New Orleans Soul, Irma Thomas (Saturday, 5 p.m.) and zydeco go-getter, accordionist/vocalist Dwayne Dopsie (Friday, 6:15 p.m.) also bolster the impressive schedule.

Parents might want to bring their children to the Kids Stage on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. where Daria Dzurik, the leader/steel pan player/vocalist of Daria & The Hip Drops fame will hold a percussion workshop. With her talent, lively personality and big smile, Dzurik has the qualities to educate and entertain the whole family. She and the Hip Drops certainly caught the crowd at this year’s French Quarter Festival.

On Friday, the music schedule is abbreviated and begins in the evening on two stages starting at 5 p.m. The Wailers, which hit the stage at 7:45 p.m. close it down. On Saturday and Sunday the music gets going at 11 a.m. Naturally there are food and beverage vendors aplenty and arts and crafts booths from one end of the fest to the other.

One of the beauties of the festival remains its wonderful setting and just being able to sit along Bayou St. John and relax.

This article originally published in the May 16, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Lights, Cars, and Holes


If you see potholes, streetlights, abandoned vehicles, etc., please get as much info as possible.

Correct addresses are very important. Make, model and license number of abandoned cars are mandatory. Each light pole has a unique number attached to it, so be sure to note that in your communications to jazzfest@fsjna.org

Things that need to be repaired or corrected are the main focus. However, all issues affecting quality of life are important such as: parking, neighborhood access, illegal vending, and crime.

potholes-2014apr21-danner Please report issues to jazzfest@fsjna.org

Slippin’ into darkness…

image courtesy memberize.com
image courtesy memberize.com

Tonight, you have the unique opportunity to take part in Bayou Paddlesport’s night paddle event. Enjoy a peaceful trip down the serene waters of Bayou St. John tonight from 7 to 9 pm

Bayou Paddlesports is hosting a night paddle TONIGHT, October 27th from 7-9 pm
Please call 504-515-3398 for reservations (website reservations are not available at this time).
Call 504-515-3398.

You can still check out the details of the night paddle on Bayou St. John in the link below:

Call 504-515-3398 for reservations.


Bayou Paddlesports was established in 2011 to provide the Greater New Orleans area with easily accessible paddling services and a great way to see New Orleans like a local. Their attention to detail and superior customer service serves locals and tourists alike.

Enjoy a little piece of sportsman’s paradise right here in New Orleans. Paddle from the launch site (on Moss Street at Florida Avenue by the LSU Dental School) up the bayou to Orleans Ave or down to Robert E Lee Blvd. Experience the city from a new perspective.

Bayou St. John is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Maybe you’ll spot a pelican swooping down for a fish, or spy the egrets, herons, ducks, loons and more. The route sweeps through residential areas with an array of architectural styles from French Colonial to lavish modern mansions.

Total route distance is about 8 easy miles round trip, perfect for beginners and experts. Join your friends and neighbors tonight for a fun, wallet-friendly way to get your paddle on! Doing the whole trip is not necessary. Paddle at your own pace.


Who Knows What Lurks in Yonder Bayou

Olivia Greene captured this photo while 
walking her dog over the Esplanade Bridge.
Olivia Greene captured this photo during August, 2015
while walking her dog over the Esplanade Bridge.

photo by Desmond X. Bennett 2015sept04
photo by Desmond X. Bennett

Desmond X. Bennett captured these photos of a small alligator in Bayou St. John on September 4th, 2015.


Greggory Morris sent this photo taken by his girl friend on September 9, 2015.
Greggory Morris sent this photo taken by his girl friend on September 9, 2015.

Faubourg St. John Keeps the Holiday Bright

by Charlie London
Ponce-de-Leon-Angelico-2014dec25A home on Ponce de Leon in Faubourg St. John.

Christmas night, I took a long stroll around Faubourg St. John taking random photos of lights neighbors had put up for the holiday. What was going to be a thirty minute walk turned into a four hour hike.

While I did get a bunch of photos, they do not fully represent the enormity of enthusiasm Faubourg St. John residents have for the holiday season. Visit the links below to take a holiday tour of just a few of the many homes in Faubourg St. John with the holiday spirit.


N-Dupre2-2014dec25NORTH DUPRE



N-Hagan4-2014dec25NORTH HAGAN



Bell1-2014dec25BELL STREET






N-Lopez2-2014dec25NORTH LOPEZ and NORTH RENDON



N-White4-2014dec25NORTH WHITE



N-Gayoso2-2014dec25NORTH GAYOSO



Orchid2-2014dec25CRETE AND ORCHID















GrandRoute1-2014dec25GRAND ROUTE SAINT JOHN


Bayou St. John on Christmas night 2014.