Magpie Café has stopped serving dinner at its downtown location and has begun utilizing the 3,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of the Commerce Building as a venue for private parties and events.
Owners James and Lina Jacobs made the decision to scale back hours of operation in February, after noticing that nighttime foot traffic downtown had slowed since the café’s opening in the fall of 2016.
“We had a really strong business for a year or so,” James Jacobs says. “But lately, there just weren’t as many people downtown anymore, though we were constantly being asked to use the space for events and private parties and stuff. So we just decided that for the betterment of our team we would kind of open ourselves up for that more.”
In the two months or so since, he says demand for the space as an event venue has been brisk.
“We’ve done rehearsal dinners, showers, even weddings there,” he says.
Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer suggests the changes Jacobs noticed in the size of his dinner crowds could be related to the number of displaced flood victims who, in late 2016 and early 2017, were living in hotels downtown, as well as elsewhere in the parish. Over time, those flood victims have returned home or moved to more permanent residences.
“In the fall of 2016 and 2017, hotels and stuff were full every night, Rhorer says.
Though data for downtown hotels specifically is not publicly available, Visit Baton Rouge has said market wide hotel occupancy figures for late 2016 and 2017 were inflated because of the flood.
Rhorer expects downtown crowds will pick up again in the months to come, as new residential developments like The Lofts at 6C and a new Courtyard Marriott hotel open in the heart of the DDD.
Jacobs says he will reevaluate the market in the future and may resume dinner service at a later date.
“We’ve always felt downtown is going to be a wonderful place,” he says. “But we were open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Downtown just wasn’t quite ready for that, it appeared.”
The café’s new hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The downtown location is Magpie Café’s second. The original opened near the Perkins Road Overpass in 2012.