Thursday, December 18, 2014

Circle of white flight

Restaurant owner Chris Vodanovich died yesterday. Ian McNulty's obituary of him published in the Advocate contains a short snip of the history of Mid City. 
For a time, the St. Ann Street restaurant had a clubhouse atmosphere. The crowd from the Fair Grounds convened there after a day at the track. The restaurant was on the map for visiting celebrities, and business and political deals were often sealed under its roof.

“It was the second City Hall, like Ruth’s Chris (Steak House) down the street — it’s where everyone went,” Cvitanovich said.

But the old neighborhood was deteriorating. In 1970, restaurant critic Richard Collin wrote that Bozo’s was in “a poorer section of the city and looks so seedy outside that one is surprised at the middle-class atmosphere inside.” With the suburbs then beginning to thrive, the Vodanovichs moved their restaurant in 1979 to Metairie, where they developed it anew at 3117 21st St.

They continued to run the business directly, with Chris minding the fryers and Bernadine a constant presence at the cashier’s station, until they retired in 2008.
Last year a Whole Foods opened just a few blocks away on Broad so the neighborhood is changing again.  I wonder where all the "seedy" people will go.  Metairie, probably. 

Update:  NOLA.com's Brett Anderson doesn't gloss over it so much.
For a period before moving Bozo's to Metairie, Mr. Vodanovich changed the business from a restaurant to a private club. As Williams explained it, the move was made on the advice of a lawyer who said it would allow the restaurant to sidestep desegregation laws by only allowing service to select customers who paid a "membership" fee.

"When the Saints team performed, they all wanted to eat there, and he wouldn't serve them" because many of the players were black, Williams said.

"There was a lot of private clubs going on at that time," Gremillion said. "It could dictate who you could serve or not."

The Metairie restaurant was open to the public.
 It was sort of like a charter school restaurant. 

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