You probably have been watching those people working on renovating the old D-John's on Highway 61 in Starhill for a long time. I've been wondering when they were going to open. Well, this week I've heard from a couple of people that the owners got fed up with the parish permitting process and went back to West Monroe. Does anybody have any solid information on this? Please let me know if so. I have also heard a rumor that he was the victim of copper thieves, but so far, all of this is mere rumor.
If the permitting story is true, it's possible that the owner couldn't bring the restaurant up to code; if so, that's on him. The law is the law. But it is conceivable that parish government threw unnecessary obstacles up. I would like to know what the owner's experience was, and if the parish government needs to make some changes in how it conducts business. But I don't know the man's name, much less how to contact him. If you can help, please e-mail me at rod.dreher (at) gmail.com
I hope our new parish president will reach out to the restaurant owner and find out what happened. If the parish did him wrong, then that needs to change. It's the kind of thing Kevin Couhig was elected to fight. Whatever the real story is here, I think we call all agree it's a shame that one more business that was going to open around here has gone bust before it even got off the ground.
UPDATE: Police Juror John Kean writes:
I was forwarded your latest blog post a minute ago. Why not call the parish office and ask questions instead of trying to start turmoil?
If you had the facts before laying out a bunch of possible rumor and innuendoes about the workings of our parish publicly, you would have found out several things:
1) the owner has had no trouble or problems in dealing with the Parish on permits. In fact, he has been complimentary on how we have been attentive to his needs. I stopped personally this summer to welcome him and asked him if there was anything he needed. He said that there was nothing he needed and that he was taking his time renovating. He informed me that he owns another restuarant in Monroe.
2) I heard he has stopped work to take care of personnel issues in Monroe. I believe he lost some of his staff due to the Duck Dynasty family opening a new restuarant in Monroe.
You come across sometimes as a journalist that can only operate by causing turmoil, instead of alittle fact finding and writing something positive about our parish or Parish government. We are making progress. I know it's slow, but it's government and not a private enterprise. I even get frustrated at times, but have learned that some obstacles we encounter as public officials arethere to protect the public. I encourage you to take the time to serve our community in a public capacity.
I appreciate hearing from John. I made it clear that I don't know why the Starhill restaurant project is on hold. I have heard from two people this week that it was problems with the permitting process, though neither one could say with certainty whether the owner couldn't bring it up to code through his own fault, or whether the parish was being too hard on him. The parish's reputation as being unfriendly to business is what made my two interlocutors suspicious. Again, I don't know what the reason is, or reasons are; this is why I'm asking y'all for more information. If I can find out the name and contact information for the restaurant owner, I'll call him and find out what happened, and call parish officials if need be to get their side.
Remember, this is not a newspaper. This is a blog. I update it in real time. If you have good information to add to this story, please e-mail it to me.
UPDATE.2: Just spoke with Teri Lafarge, one of the owners, who tells me that the restaurant is still on; they've only decided to stop working on it till after the first of the year. They expect to open it sometime in 2014. No truth to the rumor that they've had trouble with local regulators, she said. Great!