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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Speakeasy to Come Back to Life

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Arlington Hotel Project to Include French Restaurant and More

Plans are in the works to breathe new life into the 700 block of Cotton Street in downtown Shreveport.

Doctors Andrew Larson, a local anesthesiologist, and his wife, Lindsey Pennington, a plastic surgeon, bought the former Arlington Hotel at auction. The centerpiece of their plans is the Every Man a King distillery. The Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission unanimously approved a Special Use permit for the property at its meeting April 3.

The distillery will be a new construction project on the lot adjacent to the Arlington. The name of the distillery comes from former U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long. It was the motto for his national Share the Wealth Society.

The project also includes a renovation of the Arlington into a speakeasy, a modern French restaurant, event space and commercial office space, as well as a courtyard.

“We want to make it a community hub,” Larson said. “We want to get people excited about downtown. We believe this fits with the synergy of what’s going on.

Larson and Pennington have brought in executive chefs Allison Gras and Brad Jones from Baton Rouge to create the modern French dining experience at The Revenir restaurant, which will be inside the Arlington. Gras is a Shreveport native. Pennington said bringing Gras back to Shreveport fulfills one of their goals for this project.

“She was living in Baton Rouge because she didn’t feel like she had the opportunities here,” Pennington said. “A major goal of this project, in sticking with our core value of community, is we want to bring everyone home who has left this town for greener pastures and prove that we can provide those opportunities here.”

Kevin Bryan, the architect for the project, said the speakeasy, The Bottoms, is a tribute to the Arlington’s Prohibition-era roots. Those roots also are the inspiration behind the plans for the building.

“The renovations are very much a periodthemed renovation,” Bryan said. “Most people don’t know the Arlington was the site of one of the first speakeasies in Shreveport. That’s one of the reasons they want a speakeasy. It’s going to be a true speakeasy, too, with a secret door and a password.”

The Prohibition-era theme continues with the Cotton Club event space. The 5,000-square-foot space will open up onto a large wooden deck, which will then empty into the courtyard. The space will feature a built-in bar and state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. Larson said the space will accommodate “as large a party as you will find.” They also plan to host events there as well.

“We want to attract the very best musicians out there – Grammy winners and stuff – to come and play,” Larson said.

The third floor of the Arlington will be converted to 5,000 square feet of commercial office space. Larson said they are in talks with a prospective tenant for that space.

Liz Swaine, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Shreveport Development Corp., said the buzz around this project is just one indication of its significance for downtown Shreveport.

“This is huge for a couple of reasons,” she said. “One is that the Arlington was very close to being lost to us forever. Time has not been kind to it. The Larson group is saving this treasure for future generations. Two is the distillery. People are beside themselves with excitement. It’s new, fresh and fun, and I am being besieged with comments and questions about it. If people are this excited before the first brick is laid, I can’t wait to see their reaction when it is finished.”

Phase one of the project will be to clean out and stabilize the Arlington. That building will be returned to its original state as much as possible, Larson said. The distillery will be built out from there. Bryan said the distillery will have a more contemporary look but still complement the Arlington.

“When you are dealing with the State Historic Preservation Office, they don’t like fake history,” he said. “We’re not trying to fool anyone.”

Larson said they still are seeking local investors in the project, which sits in an Opportunity Zone and also is eligible for historic tax credits. Larson is eager to bring in local investors because he and Pennington want this to be a community project. “We want to make this from and for Shreveport,” he said.

Larson said they originally planned a New Year’s Eve event to christen the space. He said that the timeline has gotten tight. He said he is telling people it will open in early 2020, “with the idea it would be a wonderful surprise to open Jan. 1.” That’s because they want to make sure they are ready before it opens.

“Lindsey and I don’t believe in cutting corners, or doing anything that isn’t the absolute best,” he said.


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