Restaurant Development & Design

January-February 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 TREND Location was another challenge. Distilleries work best in industrial neighborhoods, but the restaurant com- ponent required an urban location to attract and be accessible to customers. "We found just that in an old building that is along the historic streetcar line of St. Charles Avenue," Bourgeois says, "but space is limited, and price per square foot is a bit higher than if we would have selected an industrial area off the beaten path." The building was originally a fur- niture warehouse and showroom with a 9,000-square-foot footprint. "It is a great old building with exposed ductwork and inverted ceiling trusses," says Frank Lau- ricella of Woodward Design + Build, the project's designer. "We maintained much of the building's historic character." Fermentation and distilling equip- ment occupies about a quarter of the space; the gleaming copper and stain- less steel pot still is the first thing cus- tomers see when they walk in the front door of the restaurant and bar. Diners can watch the whole process, from fermentation to bottling — through a protective glass wall, that is. Federal regulations mandated that the manufacturing area be sealed off from the retail, restaurant and bar space. There was a lot of red tape, says Bourgeois. "Approvals for distillation required permits of local, state and fed- eral governments on top of the various retail permits required." Lula's plans were subject to strict scrutiny from the State Fire Marshal, who assessed the distilling process and safety measures to ensure that customers and employees were kept safe. The space enclosing the still is a one-hour fire-rated room fitted with extra sprinkler heads. Lula's operation is allowed to make up to 5,000 cases a year. The sugarcane-based vodka, rum and gin is mixed into cocktails at the 25-seat bar and served to customers in the 140-seat dining room and on the 50-seat patio. A special events space, the Barrel Room, seats an additional 125. A small retail space, accessible from a street entrance, sells Lula's spirits by the bottle. Lula opened last November, the first — and, so far, only — restaurant- distillery in Louisiana. "We offer our customers a complete experience under one roof — the opportunity to see where and learn how the spirits are made, to try them straight up or in a cocktail and even paired with our food menu," explains Bourgeois. "That opportunity to learn, try and experience Lula before deciding to take a bottle home is an opportunity you can't quite find from a liquor or package store — and, I hope, that will build an apprecia- tion and eventual loyalty for our craft and our brand." + Photo courtesy of Lula Restaurant Distillery

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