Bacchanal’s year of transformation

Beau Ross was not anticipating the reinvention of the business he manages when the Friday evening party at Bacchanal was interrupted by the arrival of New Orleans police officers, sanitation inspectors and members of the Fire Department on Aug. 26, 2011.

The patio at Bacchanal

The patio at Bacchanal

The music entertaining a near-capacity crowd came to a halt about 9 p.m. when officials found the business to be in violation of a variety of codes and lacking proper permits.

The immediate response from Bacchanal supporters was an angry one. Facebook posts pointed fingers and vowed retaliation.

Feeling blindsided, Ross at first was at a loss for how to respond. But working through the challenges of the past year have put him in a position for greater success than he aspired to a year ago.

The Internet was a powerful ally, Ross said. With online supporters maintaining an aggressive charge on the publicity front, he could focus on working behind the scenes to solve the business problem at hand.

The online ruckus may also have been a factor in New Orleans City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer’s decision to contact Ross to offer help working through Bacchanal’s permit problems.

The process has not been an easy one. Winter was particularly grim. But with online supporters continuing to call attention to Bacchanal’s struggles, it was able to pull through, and on March 12 it got the city’s OK to present live music again. Ross said this summer’s profits will be dedicated to creating an indoor performance space above the wine shop, which will provide a more intimate setting for those more interested in listening to the music than in chatting with their friends. Having an indoor space will also allow shows to go on no matter the weather.

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