How many times have you heard the old adage, “What goes around, comes around.” Usually in connection with some event that has righted some wrong or, more likely, the come-uppence of someone you don’t really like much. Most of us are shallow enough to take pleasure in another’s bad fortune, especially if that someone has been cocky and overbearing about their success. I have to admit that on a few occasions I have been guilty of this. I strive to treat the world as if it is not a zero sum game. My fellow man’s good fortune in no way detracts from mine. Strive as I might, though, there are times when I fall into the “What goes around, comes around” frame of mind. Today is one of those days.
The object of my sense of innate justice today is the former Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans. I say former because as of the last Thursday in June, Brennan’s has been closed by its creditors. My feelings are bittersweet at the moment. I hate to see such a paragon of Creole cuisine shutter its doors. I have been going to Brennan’s since I was a kid. In July 1946, Owen Edward Brennan opened a restaurant across the street from his Old Absinthe House French Quarter bar, and a legend was born.
He called it Owen Brennan’s Vieux Carre. At first, his father ran the restaurant and soon he asked his sisters to come on board. The establishment was so successful that by the time the present generation of Brennans took over in 1973 it was one of the most profitable restaurants in the country. Since 1973 a series of family squabbles and infighting has apparently eroded the financial stability of the business to the point that the current owners have had their mortgage called and the restaurant has been closed.
It took another thirty years to screw it all up, but the cast of clowns that have been running things managed to pull it off. I have observed the transition of a New Orleans institution as it has become a giant tourist trap, especially in the last ten years or so. In the old days, the bulk of the patrons were New Orleanians and a spattering of tourists. Today, the place is packed with bozos in shorts and wife-beater shirts, and service is similar to any franchise restaurant in America. I lost interest in paying the outrageous prices for ordinary food and service long ago and quit going, but all may not be lost.
Ralph Brennan, a cousin who is a very successful restaurateur in his own right, is a major investor in the group of business executives that now own the 417 Royal Street location. Let’s hope that Ralph Brennan and his partners will re-open the historic site and a new and revived Brennan’s will again grace the Vieux Carre.