The City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana have shared a distinctive political and racial history.
For the huge number of black Americans who frequently visit “the Big Easy” it is all but impossible not to observe and feel the richness of history and afro-creole cultural influence which permeates the senses while exploring the city, its cemeteries, and historic sites.
The food remains one of New Orleans biggest draws. Cracklin, Boudin ,Gumbo and Jambalaya are just a few of the dishes many partake when they reach the Louisiana border.
African Americans have been indirectly and directly shaping the city ‘Brand’ and making it a preferred travel destination for vacations and conventions for over 100 years.
New Orleans, Louisiana has also been the ‘business location’ for Well known pirate Jean Lafitte, and Governor Huey Long and well known for its corruption from the Governor’s office to the police department and the local dog catcher in its storied history.
Entrepreneur Tracy Riley can verify that despite it being the 21st century some things remain the same in New Orleans.
Riley was raised in Mississippi and after graduating from Dillard University in New Orleans and sitting on many stools and in chairs going up the corporate ladder she served in the military.
Mrs. Riley was recently determined to be a 100% disabled veteran. So, after spending nearly 20 years in the military she invested her family’s life savings into the American dream and pursued an opportunity to own and operate a restaurant in the French Quarter.
“The Rouge House mission is to be the premiere supper-club, recording studio, Internet radio station, and film production studio for the New Orleans market in all genres of music including R & B, Rap, Hip Hop, Jazz, Brass Bands, Latin, Rock, Reggae, and Gospel music. Also, we are researching opportunities for our Chef to serve organic produce grown by the highly favored Aquaponics form of farming on our family farm, Riley Citrus of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.”
Soon after securing a superb location (300 Decatur Street) in the French Quarter and redesigning the interior to suit the needs of her new business she started to run into trouble with a small team of determined businesses such as boutique hotel Bienville House, and a handful of influential residents, while trying to obtain the necessary licensing to keep her business viable.
According to Mrs. Riley:
The French Quarter Management District (Robert Watters, Chairman) delayed and prevented the acquisition of permits to operate my business. One of the members confessed that he spoke against our request for alcohol permit in exchange for money and favor. One of the members of the opposition called one of my employees a’ nigger’ during an exchange she said.
“Additionally, The Vieux Carre Property Owners and Associates (Carol Allen, President) defamed my character resulting in unreasonable delays of the acquisition of occupational permits to operate my business.
New Orleans City Councilwoman and Council Legislative Director (Kierstin Palmer and Attorney Nicole Webre) provided false and misleading information which she alleges defamed my character resulting in costly delays of my obtaining an occupational license. Nicole Webre confessed to writing defaming emails about us without checking the facts. One email contained unsubstantiated complaints from The House of Blues.
Riley also stated that Councilwoman Palmer said she would not grant a special event permit nor would she contact the Commissioner to speak on our behalf. “She said she will not to get involved.”
Tracy Riley went on that the City of New Orleans Safety/Permits/Zoning Department and The Vieuex Carre Commission provided misleading information regarding permit restrictions against the 300 Decatur Street property prior to her lease/purchase agreement.
I was amazed to discover that the Alcohol and Tobacco Commissioner and Attorney (Troy Hebert and Jessica Stern) unlawfully entered my permit application into a special investigation/hearing which led to information used against granting my permit. She said.
Tracy, who is married to a US Reservist, and has 2 children, fears that if the issue of a liquor license isn’t cleared up fairly with due process it could mean the end of her family’s hope and dreams and will bankrupt her sapping all of her life savings.
She spoke of being a moderate politically and always believing in entrepreneurship as a way to change lives with hard work and dedication.
“I was surprised to run into all of these road mines while trying to work within the free enterprise system.” She acknowledged.
With huge economy stimulating events that come to New Orleans yearly it would seem obvious that a Black owned supper club in the French Quarter would have positive impact for the entire business community.
The Essence Festival and the National Baptist Ministers Convention, the Black Jazz Festival as well as numerous family reunion celebrations in the heart of New Orleans equates to a tangible economic impact directly related to African American visitors to the city.
Deceased conservative politician Jack Kemp, who served as a US Congressman as well as a Reagan administration cabinet member touted Enterprise Zones which gave entrepreneurs in urban areas a hand up while decreasing red tape and encouraging business development for minorities, would be exasperated to hear of such a development in the New Orleans business community.
Many are not aware that Kemp ,who also was a NFL quarterback regularly displayed a genuine interest in African Americans entreprenuers creating businesses and realizing the American dream.
Apparently such advocacy doesn’t exist even in Governor Bobby Jindal’s office.
Jindal is the first Indian American Governor in US history, yet his political interests to not, at least to this point cascade to African American voters.
While the hardships experienced by Mrs. Riley may not be entirely motivated by race alone, they certainly indicate a deeply troubling trend in the south when it comes to corruption and perceived bias.
Such displays have kept conservative African American voters from considering the Republican Party despite dissatisfaction with Democrats.
We have attempted to contact the Mayor’s office, City Council members Palmer and Webre, as well as the French Quarter management district and have not received any replies to inquiries.
“From my viewpoint my permit and the delays are the result of a hate crime, 18 USC 249: interference of business activity due to my race and gender” Said Mrs. Riley.
In a city that makes significant money off of so many African Americans from all over the US we would hope that such allegations would not be true.
We will find out as we follow the story.