Former White Star tenants make moves after food hall’s closure

    Three months after White Star Market’s closure, several former food hall tenants have gone on to open brick-and-mortar locations, while others are either scoping out physical locations for their concepts or shutting them down entirely.

    While Chow Yum Phat and Thaihey Thaifood have already moved into new locations on Hollydale Avenue and Lee Drive, respectively, Gov’t Taco will open later this summer in a space near the intersection of Government Street and West Ardenwood Drive, as previously reported by Daily Report

    “We’re hoping August,” Gov’t Taco owner and chef Jay Ducote says in a text message. “Construction and permitting have to finish … so we’ll see.”

    Other White Star alums plan to follow suit. Rêve Coffee Roasters, which already has two locations in Lafayette, is moving into a ground-floor suite in an open-air center currently under construction in The Village at Willow Grove. Coffee shop owner Nathaniel Johnson could not be reached for further comment before this morning’s deadline. 

    Even before the pandemic, D’Atz Italian owner Joe Forte said he had decided not to renew his lease, which would have ended in May, because of the high rent. He’s been eyeing potential spots between Baton Rouge and Madisonville, including one in Hammond that ultimately fell through because of its size—which was too small to fit a wood-fired pizza oven—and the high costs associated with expanding the building.

    “We haven’t really found anything that would fit us yet,” Forte says, noting he also wants to wait to open until restaurants are allowed to operate at 100% capacity. “We looked at a piece of land to build something from scratch from, but that would be much harder to get an SBA loan for versus remodeling.”

    In the meantime, Forte has been doing neighborhood pop-ups at Meadows Crossing in Walker, where he lives, as well as Highland Park in Baton Rouge. But he’s still running into challenges on that front, as many festivals and gatherings have been canceled.

    Meanwhile, at least one of the food hall’s remaining concepts—Mouton, a bar run by sommelier Scott Higgins—has confirmed its permanent closure.

    The other two tenants occupying the Mid City space at the time of its closure were Empanola and The Dish, both of which were owned by White Star owners Clark and Whitney Gaines. 

    It’s unclear what the fate of those concepts will be, as neither Clark nor Whitney could be reached for comment before this morning’s deadline. However, there is some speculation Empanola will simply focus on its two existing locations in New Orleans.

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