Whatever happened to Tipitina’s?
Mark Haslett: If that name rings a bell, maybe you listened to KETR’s Blacklands Café program back in 2013. Former Commerce Mayor Dr. John Ballotti was a frequent guest of host Dr. John Mark Dempsey. For a while there, the two were discussing a seemingly random local development. The Tipitina’s Foundation, a Louisiana-based music nonprofit, was planning to open a facility in an old school building on the east side of Commerce. Word was, the place would feature recording studios and rehearsal rooms. Let’s reach into the Blacklands Café archive about two and a half years.
Dr. John Mark Dempsey: First of all, I want you to update us on something we talked about before, Mayor, and that is the Tipitina’s Project that would go into the old A.L. Day Elementary School on the east side of town.
Dr. John Ballotti: And that’s kind of the completion of a project that’s been going on for a couple of years. It involves a contractor and the State Attorney General’s office and Commerce because it’s where the problem took place. All the paperwork has been signed, and the construction/reconstruction/remodel of the A.L. Day School should be starting probably as we’re speaking, and we’ll turn that into a music facility.
Dempsey: Explain that a little bit. I was reading about Tipitina’s after we talked the last time. This is a non-profit organization. It’s not a commercial enterprise, but explain how it would work and musicians will come in and it will be a rehearsal area and performance area. Very unusual and interesting organization.
Haslett: Well, the exterior of the A.L. Day Elementary School building did get fixed up. But then, everything stopped. So, what ever happened to Tipitina’s? New Commerce mayor Wyman Williams confirmed that the project did stall in early 2014.
Wyman Williams: And as I became mayor I found out that there had been little discussion about that among city employees and with the council, so we are in the process of investigating what went wrong. And many of the people who set it up and were operating the process are no longer a part of the city, so we don’t have their information as to what happened. But we’re working with our City Attorney to discover what went wrong, and then get back with the people who had agreed to the contract and see if we can’t get it back up and running so it can be a benefit to our city.
Haslett: Tipitina’s is a music venue in New Orleans, but it also operates a charitable foundation dedicated to helping musicians develop their skills. The foundation has four major areas of operation. One project gets used instruments into the hands of student musicians. Another ongoing effort is the open workshop held on Sundays at the Tipitina’s concert venue. The foundation also offers professional recording services in New Orleans. The fourth major project involves brick-and-mortar locations outside of New Orleans. Tipitina’s has what it calls “Music Office Co-Ops” in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe. The plan had been to have one such Co-Op in Commerce. So what will Wyman Williams discover about the Tipitina’s situation? We’ll be checking in to find out soon, so – stay tuned. For KETR news, this is Mark Haslett.