By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
COVINGTON – The quarterly “Coffee with Cooper” meeting at the Covington Trailhead, giving residents a chance to meet with Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, may have had its usual list of topics for the mayor to relate, but the biggest interest that day was clearly about the progress to re-open the historic Southern Hotel.
Cooper wasn’t the least bit shy sharing the attention that morning as he specifically had Southern Hotel General Manager Miro Largo on hand, along with Georgie Brooks-Myrtle, executive assistant to owner Lisa Condrey. The twosome shared an update on the hotel, which is in the process of being totally gutted, renovated and rebuilt at the 420 E. Boston St. location.
Condrey said the original plan was to spend $13 million, but Brooks said there was even more foundation and infrastructure work that was uncovered as they got in it. She said it will now be closer to a $15 million project when it is finished, now aiming at a June 1 opening.
Largo was introduced as the new G.M., recently hired after extensive experience at other historic hotels and restaurants, such as the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans and the King Edward Hotel in Jackson, Miss.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the Southern Hotel,” Largo said, admitting he is so new here he has barely gotten to ride the streets of Covington to know where things are. “This building is such a jewel, it’s going to be wonderful being a part of its return.”
Brooks said she has been swamped with people wanting to work there.
“I have a binder three inches thick that is full of resumes,” she said. “We are already booking up—there is so much interest in it.”
She said they will announce the chef to head the restaurant within three weeks, but they have already named the restaurant.
“It will be called Ox Lot 9, since that is the original location where we sit,” she said.
Phase II will be a newly-built cooking school on one side of the hotel, which will also offer accommodations to stay there for a week or two, similar to a bed and breakfast vacation for out-of-towners, or locals—all while getting a chance to go to cooking school.
“We have a lot of locals who have already booked nights here—June is pretty full already,” Brooks said. “We’re working as hard as we can to get the hotel open and even though it may not look like it, we have about 60 to 80 workers on the site every day.”
Aside from the news about the Southern Hotel, Cooper updated attendees on street work in the area, the 23rd Avenue bridge that is still closed and reminded residents that Mardi Gras season starts in Covington on Feb. 22 when the Krewe of Olympians rolls. He said the reviewing stand for city officials has been moved to the parking lot on Boston Street where Gulf Coast Bank offered their lot to be used.
Councilman Lee Alexius was there to give an update about the St. Tammany Inspector General Task force, which had its recommendation this past Monday night that will be sent to the Legislature. (See separate story in today’s paper on that decision.)
“The Covington City Council has voted to support option 1, which basically allows the I.G.to investigate any agency in the parish, even though we don’t actually think we need it in Covington. We have the power in our Home Rule Charter to call for audits when needed and we think we’ve done a good job handling problems of our own,” he said. “But we had to support one of the three options, so we picked the first one, which will take a lot of time and approvals to go through the entire process before becoming law.”
The Legislature will take the recommendation from the parish Task Force and decide if they want to allow the St. Tammany voters to decide the matter. If they agree with the suggestion, they will pass a bill to authorize the election, which is only the first step in moving forward to approve, and find funding for an I.G. here.