Fire-damaged NOLA restaurant faces scrutiny

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NOLA on the Square won't be open in time for a festive Mardi Gras party March 4.

Instead, restaurant owner Yves Carreau is planning something a different to celebrate the fire-damaged restaurant's reopening, which he said could be more than two months away.

He wants to throw a phoenix party "to celebrate our rise from the ashes."

But several outstanding city permit and code requirements could stand in the way.

According to John Jennings, the city's chief building inspector, Mr. Carreau will be cited for having an improperly built wood-burning oven installed without city permits. Mr. Jennings said the oven appears to have been the cause of the three-alarm fire that damaged NOLA Monday.

Also, an inspection of the restaurant on Tuesday found that NOLA was operating without needed city permits for its electrical system, fire alarm, heating and air-conditioning systems, and sprinkler/standpipe. Inspectors estimated the total cost of work to bring those items into compliance at $125,000.

Mr. Jennings said Mr. Carreau will be receiving citations for what the city labeled "dangerous conditions" at the restaurant, also including a blocked fire exit.

Mr. Carreau said plans for the oven were submitted to the city and approved in November 2010, before the oven's installation, by licensed contractors. The city inspected the entire kitchen and issued an occupancy permit before the restaurant opened, he said.

Mr. Jennings disagreed. He said the oven was not installed until after the city inspected the restaurant and issued the occupancy permit. He said the restaurant never sought a permit for the oven.

"If they had submitted [an application], we would have caught all the mistakes in the installation prior to any of this happening," Mr. Jennings said.

He also said the restaurant has to turn over records of all third-party inspections since its opening in March 2011 to ensure everything else is operational and up to code.

Mr. Carreau said, with more than 200 people employed by his Big Y Group, which also runs Sonoma and Seviche restaurants and Champagne bar Perle, he can't afford to cut corners when it comes to safety.

"I don't think we were negligent," he said. "We went out of our way to make sure the safety of our employees and customers are our No. 1 priority."

His 75 employees at NOLA "may be out [of work] for a period of time." For now, he said, his first priority is finding a contractor to assess the damage and begin repair work.

Clarece Polke,, 412 263-1889

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