The high-end Southern restaurant and jazz venue Lola’s is Soul finally kicked the bucket this week, after a long struggle with the Soho Alliance, which fought for years to block Lola’s permits for alcohol and live music. In September, the restaurant declared Chapter 11, but it kept operating until last Friday, when unpaid back rent forced them to close their doors.
Lola’s moved from Chelsea to the Soho location in 2004, and immediately encountered heavy opposition from the Soho Alliance, some of it racially tinged. (The couple that owned Lola’s is biracial: She’s black; he’s white.) Flyers appeared, claiming that the restaurant would bring “more crime” and “unruly crowds” to the neighborhood.
Last spring, former Village Voice staffer Chloe Hilliard reported on Lola’s fight with the neighborhood group, and on the particularly strong opposition from Soho Alliance director Sean Sweeney. Sweeney told Hilliard:
“I don’t think you need a martini to go with chitlins and collard
greens. What wine goes with jambalaya? I can’t think of one,” he says,
ridiculing Lola’s need for a license. “There is a place right next to
them that sells empañadas, and they don’t serve liquor.”
Actually, Lola’s was a high-end establishment, with refined versions of Southern classics–such as shrimp and grits (which I liked)– along with dishes such as pecan-crusted rack of lamb and fluke en papillote. Not that I see anything wrong with having a glass of wine with chitlins, anyway.
In the current economic climate, restaurants without legal bills are going under, so it was only a matter of time before Lola’s couldn’t go it anymore. Still, you wonder what would have happened if Sweeney didn’t have these notions about “chitlins and collard greens” and the kind of folks who like them.