Fix on the way for alleyway at center of dispute between French Truck Coffee, city-parish

    A fix could be coming soon to a battered public alleyway behind French Truck Coffee in Mid City, bringing an end to the owner’s monthslong quest to get it repaired.

    French Truck Coffee owner Geoffrey Meeker, who first asked the city-parish to fix the alley last summer, put up a sign next to the passageway late last week, chastising the city-parish and urging people to call the Department of Public Works to complain. The sign says the city-parish “won’t fix it and won’t let us,” and asks “where are our tax (dollars)?”

    “It wasn’t in great shape to begin with,” Meeker says of the alleyway. “Then with the delivery trucks, garbage trucks and customers going in there, it has gotten progressively worse.”

    Customers have to drive down the alley, which is littered with large potholes, to get to the parking lot in the rear of the coffee shop.

    Meeker, who opened the first Baton Rouge location of his New Orleans-bred establishment last summer on Government Street, describes a “frustrating” effort to get the city-parish to commit to fixing the alley. In recent weeks, Metro Councilman Matt Watson has coordinated with Meeker and with DPW Director Fred Raiford. Councilman LaMont Cole, who represents the district, says he’s also talked with DPW officials about it and was told several weeks ago that work crews would lay down gravel to fix it.

    Kyle Huffstickler, director of the maintenance division for DPW, wondered aloud why Meeker erected the sign and says the owner has “been in the loop” throughout the process. Meeker disputes that, saying he has had little communication from the city-parish.

    The original work order request was for repaving the alley, Huffstickler says, something the city-parish is unwilling to do. The rules are vague for who is responsible for maintaining public access alleyways, and are different from right-of-ways maintained by the city-parish.

    Huffstickler says he agreed weeks ago to fix the alleyway with gravel or limestone, the same way the city-parish fixes other such public access areas. But the city-parish won’t lay down asphalt, which was the original request from the owner, he says.
    “We agreed we’d get in there and do some work,” Huffstickler says. “(But) with the rain and the weather of the past month, we had 18 days of rain, snow or ice. The ground is extremely wet. We’re putting a plan together and a schedule together to get our crews to get out there in the next month or so.”

    Meeker, meanwhile, says he heard little from the city-parish until he put up the sign. Asked about DPW’s plan to lay down gravel, he says he is “in favor of anything that will improve the situation.”

    “We’ll see,” Meeker says. “This wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve been told something would happen and nothing happens.”

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