Over the 20th century, the Dew Drop Inn established itself as a pillar of the local jazz and Black communities until it was closed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nearly 20 years and a massive renovation later, the legendary business is set to reopen under new ownership as a music venue, restaurant, bar, pool club, and hotel at 2836 Lasalle Street in Central City.
Developer Curtis Doucette Jr. led the effort to bring back “the Drop” and he recently told What Now New Orleans that financing the project was the most difficult part. However, he was able to help secure financing and the Dew Drop Inn is set to reopen in February.
The music club was the beating heart of the inn. It became an essential stop for some of the biggest Black performers in America, including James Brown, Ray Charles, Etta James, and Tina Turner. Doucette said the club also played a role in the local and national Civil Rights discourse.
“The building and the business represent a significant history that can’t be detached from New Orleans,” he mused. “And they’re significant in the same ways that New Orleans is significant in the world.”
The new-look Dew Drop Inn tips its hat to history with Art Deco flair and mid-century design fixtures. The restaurant will serve a similar menu to its past iteration, including dishes like gumbo; red beans and rice; and grillades and grits.
“I feel like when you go to a New Orleans restaurant, you want to eat food that tastes like it comes from somebody’s grandmother’s kitchen,” Doucette said.
But Doucette isn’t just looking to pay tribute to a bygone era. The menu is being developed in consultation with chef Marilyn Doucette — Curtis Doucette’s aunt, and proprietor of Meals from the Heart. The Dew Drop Inn won’t have the same emphasis on healthy, gluten-free, and vegan cooking, but Curtis Doucette said his aunt’s progressive culinary influence is part of the Drop’s mission to be forward-thinking.
“This business had always been on the cutting edge of what was new. So we intend to honor that history by continuing to do the same thing,” he said. “While we will always have a special reverence for yesterday, we’re always going to be looking ahead.”