Hard Rock Cafe moving from Decatur Street to Iberville & Bourbon Streets

Posted on: April 2 2012
"...two new businesses on Canal Street will help "breathe life" into the commercial strip, provide a much-needed face lift for a key entry point into the French Quarter..."

March 27, 2012

Frank Donze, The Times Picayune

The Hard Rock Cafe will shutter its Decatur Street location and become a tenant in a city-owned Canal Street complex that is undergoing a $45.7 million renovation as it transitions into a Hyatt Hotel property, project developers said Tuesday. The Hard Rock chain's lone New Orleans outlet, which opened near the riverfront in 1987, will relocate to the corner of Bourbon and Iberville streets, in the rear of what is now the Chateau Bourbon Hotel.

The hotel is scheduled to be "rebranded" under the Hyatt flag by mid-May, officials with HRI Properties said.

In addition to the Hard Rock development, the front of the city-owned complex in the 800 block of Canal Street will get two new businesses: a Pop This! gourmet popcorn shop and a FroYo frozen yogurt store, officials said. The two retailers will occupy nearly 3,000 square feet of space that has been empty since Hurricane Katrina.

News of the commercial developments came during a meeting of the Canal Street Development Corp., the city's public-benefit corporation that acts as landlord for the Canal Street property.

The city acquired the former D.H. Holmes department store on Canal Street in 1989 when Dillard Department Stores decided to close the site shortly after taking over the Holmes chain. Dillard donated the store and an annex building across Iberville Street to the city, which set up the corporation to manage the property.

Former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy chose HRI, led by developer Pres Kabacoff, to redevelop the buildings into a hotel, retail spaces, a garage and apartments.

It took Kabacoff several years to line up the financing for the 250-room hotel, which opened in 1995 as the Chateau Sonesta. It later became the Chateau Bourbon, operated by the Wyndham chain. Last summer, HRI announced that Hyatt would take over the hotel.

The redevelopment, which calls for renovations to all rooms and a new lobby, bar and restaurant area, is a joint venture between HRI and Carey Watermark Investors Inc. The project will involve no city money.

Steve Nance, HRI's vice president for investments, said Hard Rock will make a "multimillion-dollar" investment in its new 10,000-square-foot location, which will include a performance area along with its trademark walls festooned with rock 'n' roll memorabilia.

"We envision that this will be a major upgrade to the first block of Bourbon Street," Nance said, noting that the site has lacked stability since it debuted as a high-end jazz club that later became a honky-tonk featuring a mechanical bull.

Currently, the space houses Howl at the Moon, a music venue with dueling pianos, and Storyville Cafe.

Hard Rock will continue to operate at its Decatur Street address until its new home is ready early next year, Nance said. The chain, which has 150 locations worldwide, will assume the remaining 25 years or so left on the current lease for the Bourbon Street site, he said.

Nance said the two new businesses on Canal Street will help "breathe life" into the commercial strip, provide a much-needed face lift for a key entry point into the French Quarter and improve the bottom line for the public-benefit corporation.

The agency uses its income to promote development elsewhere on Canal Street. Last year, the corporation loaned $1.1 million to developers of the Saenger Theatre while they smoothed out a wrinkle in their financing strategy.

With the anticipated addition of the popcorn shop and yogurt store later this year, Nance said, all 22,000 square feet of retail space in the Canal Street complex will be in commerce.

The Canal Street Development Corp. board voted unanimously to authorize its staff to negotiate leases with Hard Rock and the two retailers.