As a lifelong resident and music lover of New Orleans, Donna’s on Rampart (http://www.donnasonrampart.com/) formerly known as Donna’s Bar & Grill has been a favorite of mine and many other’s seeking to hear some great Brass band, Funk or Jazz Music. I can vividly recall going on Mondays and hearing Bob French for the first time causing me to fall in love with him and his band. I remember as recent as last year heading over to Donna’s and dancing the night away to Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolia’s. Donna’s has always been a place where you can send folks and know, without a doubt, they will have a great New Orleans time. It was always a simple, unassuming and fun place to be which happened to include some of the best music in town.
Last year in August was the first time I saw the sign hanging on the door at Donna’s that simply said “GONE FISHING” and slowly but surely the rumor was confirmed when the news began to spread of Donna’s closing. The former owners Donna Poniatowski and Charlie Sims posted a note on their website confirming the closing and thanking its patrons and musicians for all the great years of music. Needless to say, I was a little heartbroken because Donna’s was the last place on Rampart where live music could be played and enjoyed. Since Donna’s has been around for a while, their music license was grandfathered in which is a great thing considering the city is not issuing out any more music license’s. Now this is an insane notion to me, the Rampart Street area is the heart of all New Orleans music. Rampart Street, the same street which sits across from Congo Square which many music historians consider to be the birthplace of ALL American music and certainly New Orleans music will no longer be allowed to have music?? I could go on and on about this topic alone for about 50 more blogs but let’s get back to Donna’s.
Donna’s is now reopen and under new ownership and management. The club changed around its name to Donna’s on Rampart and has now been reborn as a smoke free venue. I am proud to announce that I am a very small part of the rebirth of Donna’s as I was recruited by the General Manager, Venessa Willliams, to be the bar manager and help with some music booking. The new owner is Dr. Eugene Oppman and his representative is Morris Kahn, a local accountant and tax specialist. Donna’s on Rampart has been hosting music for the last 3 months now and it has been a labor of love by General Manager and talent buyer Venessa Williams. Ms. Williams also is in charge of the kitchen which serves up New Orleans specialties such as Red Beans and Rice, Fried Chicken, Shrimp Cakes, Etoufee, etc.
On Monday March 14th, the city pulled the music license for Donna’s claiming that the establishment could not be blanketed under the old Grandfathered in license because the business had been closed for over 6 months. This news which was posted on Offbeat spread very quickly and I have personally received various emails and phone calls from Musicians wanting to know the scoop. Donna’s on Rampart has 30 days to appeal to decision to Civil District Court and within that time we are still allowed to operate as usual. I believe it would be a great loss to our musical culture if the music is stopped at Donna’s. There are some folks who seem to be against having live music on Rampart due to a Noise ordinance issue but why ,I ask, do you move to an area like Rampart street which has never been a QUIET area? Why doesn’t the city simply revamp the district and make it into something great that we as a city could be proud of again? As stated by Jan Ramsey (Editor of Offbeat Magazine and music lover) “It’s an ideal place for an entertainment and cultural district. It would create walking traffic on North Rampart—which is, after all, a four-lane commercial avenue—that would certainly deter crime, and provide more of a focus for Armstrong Park.” Thank you Mrs Ramsey, I couldn’t of said it better myself.
The music at Donna’s has been booked through Jazzfest and we are happily looking forward to a successful festival season. Musicians, locals and tourists alike have expressed their happiness over the reopening of the venue. We have experienced some incredibly successful nights which have included musicians such as Joe Krown, Walter Wolfman, Russell Batiste, The Wild Magnolia’s, James Singleton, Skerik and Mike Dillon ,just to name a few, with folks happy to hang out at Donna’s on Rampart and dance to their heart’s content. Donna’s on Rampart is located at 800 Rampart Street (on the corner of Rampart and St.Anne) and we open Thursday through Sunday right now and offers live music for those 4 days. On Thursday and Sunday the music begins at 8 p.m. and one Friday and Saturday the music begins at 10 p.m. We can also be found on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Donnas-On-Rampart/108175012579031?ref=ts) and hope to be around for many more years to come.