Orpheum renovation preserves, reveals past

September 10th, 2014

By: Robin Shannon, Reporter

Six months into a nearly yearlong renovation that will restore the Orpheum Theater as a live performance venue, members of the design team that orchestrated the work say the project has been mostly smooth sailing.

The 96-year-old Beaux Arts-style theater, which has hosted vaudeville acts, silent films, talkies and most recently the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, is undergoing a renovation that will wash away nearly a decade of neglect. Owners Roland von Kurnatowski and Dr. Eric George, who bought the property in May for $2 million, are leading the $13 million project. Fountainbleau Construction, von Kurnatowski’s own contracting firm, is handling the work. First Bank and Trust financed construction, which began in February with draining excess water and demolition of the seats

For the full story visit CityBusiness.



2014 Where Magazine’s Silver Plume Awards

September 9th, 2014

Presented annually throughout North America and Europe, Where Magazine’s Silver Plume Awards recognize industry professionals for their on-going contributions to tourism, the hospitality industry and the community at large.  This year’s event was held at the Sheraton New Orleans Armstrong Ballroom on September 3, 2014.

Plume recipients include:

General Manager of the Year:

David Teich, Windsor Court

Spirit of Hospitality:

Jimmy Boudreaux, Commander’s Palace

Anita Oubre, Bourbon Orleans

Quentin Scott, W French Quarter

Sales & Marketing Person of the Year:

Julie Yates, Omni Royal Orleans

Concierge Rising Star:

Jasmine Banks, Westin Canal Place

Junior Concierge of the Year:

Randy Boudreaux, Hotel Monteleone

Concierge of the Year:

Travis Gilbert, Windsor Court

Top Concierge Award of  Year, the Julius Craane Award:

Isabelle Van Brockel, JW Marriott



HRI Lodging Promotes Tim Talley To VP OF Engineering

September 3rd, 2014

Talley will oversee engineering and facilities functions for all hotel properties

NEW ORLEANS, LA  - Tim Talley, a veteran with more than 30 years in facilities management, has been promoted to vice president of engineering, announced Gary Gutierrez, president of HRI Lodging (HRIL).

(Full Press Release)



Southwest Adds Nonstop Destination From New Orleans to San Antonio

August 29th, 2014

Service to San Antonio to Start in March 2015

(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is pleased to announce that Southwest Airlines, the major low cost carrier in New Orleans, will begin daily non-stop service to San Antonio from New Orleans on April 7, 2015 aboard their 143 seat Boeing 737-700 aircraft. Service will be available for sale mid to late October 2014.

(Full Press Release)



Louisiana ranks 3rd in Kiplinger’s 10 most tax-friendly states, report shows

August 25th, 2014

By Renita D. Young, NOLA.com | The Times Picayune

When it comes to ranking states on the friendliness of their income taxes sales tax ant other taxes, Louisiana proved among the most friendly, according to Kiplinger’s annual ranking of the 10 most and least tax-friendly states.

Louisiana ranks third among Kiplinger’s 10 Most Tax-Friendly States, behind Wyoming, which ranked second and Delaware, the most tax-friendly state.

The rankings and online tax map compare a range of taxes in each state, including income tax, sales tax, gas tax, and “sin” taxes on products like alcohol and tobacco.

Kiplinger’s 10 Most Tax-Friendly States:

  1. Delaware
  2. Wyoming
  3. Louisiana
  4. Mississippi
  5. Alabama
  6. Arizona
  7. Nevada
  8. New Mexico
  9. South Carolina
  10. West Virginia

Kiplinger’s 10 Least Tax-Friendly States:

  1. California
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Jersey
  4. New York
  5. Hawaii
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Maine
  8. Minnesota
  9. Vermont
  10. Illinois

Along with its rankings, Kiplinger’s produced a tax map, a sister project to the organization’s annual Retiree Tax Map which presents each state’s income taxes on investment income, retirement-plan distributions and Social Security benefits. It also includes a rundown of sales taxes, property taxes, and estate and inheritance taxes.

“The Tax Map is a valuable tool for anyone considering a move, whether it’s cross country or just over to the next state,” said Robert Long, Managing Editor at Kiplinger.com. “It’s also important for users to consider the potential tradeoffs associated with varying taxation policies. For example, states with lower tax revenues may not spend as much on critical services that residents might benefit from in other states.”

To view the complete Tax Map for a detailed summary of a state taxes, visit www.kiplinger.com/links/taxmap.

“Many of the states that consistently rank among the least tax-friendly for retirees are also the least tax-friendly across the board,” said Sandra Block, Senior Associate Editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. “Our rankings and the Tax Map tool help users to make the most financially sound decision when considering an interstate move.” When it comes to ranking states on the friendliness of their income taxes sales tax ant other taxes, Louisiana proved among the most friendly, according to Kiplinger’s annual ranking of the 10 most and least tax-friendly states.

Louisiana ranks third among Kiplinger’s 10 Most Tax-Friendly States, behind Wyoming, which ranked second and Delaware, the most tax-friendly state.

The rankings and online tax map compare a range of taxes in each state, including income tax, sales tax, gas tax, and “sin” taxes on products like alcohol and tobacco.

Kiplinger’s 10 Most Tax-Friendly States:

  1. Delaware
  2. Wyoming
  3. Louisiana
  4. Mississippi
  5. Alabama
  6. Arizona
  7. Nevada
  8. New Mexico
  9. South Carolina
  10. West Virginia

Kiplinger’s 10 Least Tax-Friendly States:

  1. California
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Jersey
  4. New York
  5. Hawaii
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Maine
  8. Minnesota
  9. Vermont
  10. Illinois

Along with its rankings, Kiplinger’s produced a tax map, a sister project to the organization’s annual Retiree Tax Map which presents each state’s income taxes on investment income, retirement-plan distributions and Social Security benefits. It also includes a rundown of sales taxes, property taxes, and estate and inheritance taxes.

“The Tax Map is a valuable tool for anyone considering a move, whether it’s cross country or just over to the next state,” said Robert Long, Managing Editor at Kiplinger.com. “It’s also important for users to consider the potential tradeoffs associated with varying taxation policies. For example, states with lower tax revenues may not spend as much on critical services that residents might benefit from in other states.”

To view the complete Tax Map for a detailed summary of a state taxes, visit www.kiplinger.com/links/taxmap.

“Many of the states that consistently rank among the least tax-friendly for retirees are also the least tax-friendly across the board,” said Sandra Block, Senior Associate Editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. “Our rankings and the Tax Map tool help users to make the most financially sound decision when considering an interstate move.”



There’s a post-Katrina joie de vivre in New Orleans

August 22nd, 2014

By Mille Ball  - Los Angeles Times

In a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral, mourners follow a brass band playing dirges. When they leave the cemetery, the music changes tempo — “Oh, when the saints go marchin’ in” — and everyone dances, celebrating the deceased and the gift of life.

It’s been something like that in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, and leaking levees almost drowned the city.  We don’t forget, but we had to begin again, so we did. Returning residents, joined by young entrepreneurs who moved here after the storm, led the way.

Tourists are discovering a revived city too. There still are issues, of course, but plenty to celebrate. Last year, 9.28 million visitors showed up.

Check out www.neworleansonline.com and www.neworleanscvb.com. And read on for some of the positive changes in NOLA in the last nine years.

Restaurants

On Aug. 28, 2005 — the day before Hurricane Katrina — there were 809 restaurants in New Orleans, excluding fast-food and most chain outlets. Now there are more than 1,412, says Tom Fitzmorris, a.k.a. “Mr. Food,” publisher and editor of New Orleans Menu, whose website (nomenu.com) describes it as the “richest source of information about New Orleans restaurants, cooking and food.”

Restaurant empires have been built, and James Beard Foundation awards have been won since 2006. Chefs Donald Link (Herbsaint), Steve Stryjewski (Cochon) and Ryan Prewitt (Pêche Seafood Grill) all have won James Beard’s Best Chef: South.

This year, Pêche also was named Beard’s best new restaurant in the country.

Other recent New Orleans winners of the Best Chef: South award include Tory McPhail (Commander’s Palace), Sue Zamenick (Gautreau’s and Ivy) and John Besh (Restaurant August).

Besh has opened or bought five more restaurants in the New Orleans area since Katrina: Lüke, Domenica, Pizza Domenica, Borgne and LaProvence.

Phillip Lopez’s Square Root opened in April. New Orleans’ only prepaid, pre-fixe restaurant ($95 and $150) has 16 seats at a counter. At his Root, a must since 2011, you’ll find quirky dishes such as ménage à foie (three types of foie gras, one the texture of cotton candy).

And that’s just a taste of what’s happening.

Music and musicians

The 500 and 600 blocks of Frenchmen Street are still the heart of the local music scene. New this year is the Louisiana Music Factory, which moved its renowned CD and vinyl store from the French Quarter to 421 Frenchmen.

More live music shows start earlier. Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins quit his Thursday gig at Vaughan’s in Bywater because he didn’t want to work late. Find him at 8 p.m. or so at the Blue Nile, the Little Gem Saloon and Bullet’s Sports Bar.

Big Freedia (a.k.a. Freddie Ross) describes bounce rap, which has been performed in small clubs since the late 1990s, as “a sub-genre of hip-hop, grown out of New Orleans.” She has been twerking in various NOLA venues since before Miley Cyrus was Hannah Montana. Freedia won the Big Easy Entertainer of the Year Award in 2014 from the Gambit weekly newspaper.

More upscale clubs have opened, joining trumpeter Jeremy Davenport’s Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton. Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse has settled into the Royal Sonesta Hotel at 300 Bourbon St.

Festivals

It’s always been hard to find a weekend when there isn’t a festival, but since Katrina, it’s almost impossible. Newcomers have joined old standards, and food, music and dancing are what they’re all about.

Mardi Gras is the queen of all festivals in New Orleans. (Mardi Gras is Feb. 17 next year, with carnival season beginning Jan 6.) Some folks suggested that it be canceled in 2006. They muttered too that the other biggie, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a.k.a. Jazz Fest, should detour to Houston for a year.

No way, New Orleanians said.

This year, about 435,000 fans bought single-day Jazz Fest tickets to get up close to Bruce Springsteen (here twice since Katrina), Santana, Phish, Eric Clapton and Robin Thicke. It’s always the last week of April and the first weekend of May at the Fair Grounds Race Course.

Winner of the numbers game is the four-day French Quarter Festival each April (April 9-12 next year). It’s free, so numbers are harder to determine, but word is that this year, 733,000 people jammed the French Quarter to listen to New Orleans and Louisiana performers and stuff themselves at food booths (not free).

The Essence Festival did move to Houston in 2006, but it returned home to New Orleans the next Fourth of July weekend — and stayed. This year, as many as 150,000 attended big-name ticketed concerts in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, moving to music by Prince, Mary J. Blige and Charlie Wilson, while many thousands more showed for a free outdoor concert and empowerment seminars in the Morial Convention Center. Look for it July 2-6 next year.

Among new festivals are four freebies: the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival, the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival, the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival and the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival. All are sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, the nonprofit owner of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Parks

New Orleans has two major parks: City Park in Mid-City, and Audubon Park, between Tulane/Loyola and the Mississippi River. City Park, where supply trucks parked after Katrina, has a new miniature golf course, a dog park and a branch of the Morning Call coffee house.

The New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park now throws arty gatherings on Friday Nights at NOMA, 5-9 p.m. In summer, there are Shakespeare, movies, concerts and plays in NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

A delightful view at Audubon Zoo is of human kids at the Cool Zoo water park. Next up are new elephant and orangutan exhibits.

Aquatic inhabitants swim in the Great Maya Reef exhibit, new this March, at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, beside the Mississippi River downtown. Other additions include Parakeet Pointe, with live birds, and Geaux Fish!, showcasing Louisiana fisheries.

Nearby downtown is the Audubon Nature Institute’s buggy walk-through Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, which opened in 2008 in the U.S. Custom House.

Bywater

This is hip central, dubbed “Brooklyn South” because many young New Yorkers have moved to this onetime working-class neighborhood. There’s a touch of Bohemia among the Italianate shotgun houses, which experienced little to no Katrina-related flooding. The “gentrification” word is whispered.

There’s a buzzy art scene now. St. Claude Avenue is scattered with nontraditional art gallery openings on the second Saturday of the month. Newbie eateries competing with longtime favorites include Booty’s Street Food, serving street and truck food from all over the world, and Pizza Delicious.

The first phase of Crescent Park, a 1.4-mile recreational area, opened this winter in Bywater, beside the Mississippi, with pavilions and paths for jogging and biking.

Magazine Street corridor

Stretching six miles from Canal Street to Audubon Park, Magazine Street was once known for its restaurants, second-hand shops and other funky places. Now, it has 85 restaurants, 43 clothing and accessory stores and a dozen art galleries. And, yes, there still are secondhand shops and funk.

Among newcomers since Katrina are Derby Pottery & Tile, known for its reproduction tiles and water-meter clocks; Art & Eyes, which sells cool eyeglass frames and painted silk jackets; and Sucre, a divine French bakery.

Freret Street corridor

Freret’s eight blocks between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues in Uptown were almost dead even before Katrina. After Cure opened in 2008 at 4905 Freret, serving fancy cocktails, the area became cool.

There’s now a slew of food and drink outlets, shops, a comedy club and coffee shops in those eight blocks. Among the favorites are Company Burger (best burger in NOLA), the original Dat Dog and the High Hat Cafe, catfish and Southern casual.

Streetcars

Capital improvements to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line should be complete by Sept. 1 (so they say) after major work that disrupted service. A new line from the bus and train station — Union Passenger Terminal — to Canal Street was completed in early 2013, and work on tracks from North Rampart Street to Bywater should begin late this year. These streetcars are desired. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has schedules and fares at norta.com.

Lagniappe (Lan-yap, a little something extra)

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk opened this spring next to the Julia Street Cruise Terminal and the Morial Convention Center.

The National World War II Museum’s Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center opened in 2013, with airplanes and interactive media. Don’t miss Tom Hanks’ powerful “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 4-D movie. nationalww2museum.org.



Spirit Airlines now accepting reservations for flights to Chicago & Detroit

August 21st, 2014

Flights to the Windy and Motor Cities from the Crescent City Start October 30

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Ultra-low cost carrier Spirit Airlines is now accepting reservations for flights from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to Chicago and Detroit that begin on Thursday, October 30, 2014. The new daily flight to Chicago will depart New Orleans at 5:55 p.m. and arrive at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) at 8:12 p.m. The carrier will depart Chicago at 8:20 a.m. and arrive in New Orleans at 10:48 a.m.  The new Detroit daily flight will depart New Orleans at 11:20 a.m. and arrive at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) at 2:50 p.m. The carrier will depart Detroit at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in New Orleans at 5:15 p.m. This will bring the total number of nonstop destinations Spirit will offer from New Orleans to five, including Dallas which was their first entry into the New Orleans Market along with the start of daily service to Houston and Ft. Lauderdale that began August 1, 2014.

Click for the full Press Release.



Groundbreaking set for $50M Gretna hotel

August 20th, 2014

By: Robin Shannon, Reporter CityBusiness

The developers behind a new $50 million hotel project on Jefferson Parish’s West Bank are set to begin construction.

Harvey-based BN Management will break ground Wednesday on a 123-room Marriott-branded Courtyard Inn that will be built on an 11-acre tract of land between Whitney Avenue and the West Bank Expressway. The hotel is the first phase of a larger development on the property, which is situated just over the Orleans Parish line. Future phases will include additional hotels and other commercial and retail activity.

Hi-Tech Commercial Contractors, a subsidiary of BN Management, are the general contractors for the project. Construction is expected to take between 14 and 16 months.

BN Management operates hotels in New Orleans, Marrero, Harvey, Chalmette and Berwick, and it also has a site in the works along Panama City Beach, Fla. The Gretna hotel would be the company’s 10th development.

For the full story, visit CityBusiness.



New Orleans hotels sizzle in July

August 20th, 2014

By: Maria Clark, Reporter

Despite the unrelenting heat of July in New Orleans, travel market research firm STR reported an increase in hotel occupancy rates last month.

Rates increased to 67.5 percent compared to 63.7 percent in July 2013.

For the full story visit CityBusiness.



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