If you were planning to visit New Orleans Manor before it shut down forever Wednesday night, don't bother. A damburst of visitors--most regulars from throughout the seafood parlor's 31-year history on Murfreesboro Road--cleaned out the restaurant's food supply tonight, effectively closing the place a day early.
"They wiped us out," the exhausted employee who answered the phone said. "We could've served 2,000 if we'd had the food."
The irony is that if the same people had come more regularly over the past year, the place might still be open. According to an employee, food costs inflated by rising gas prices took a heavy toll on the seafood restaurant, but the biggest problem was a steady decline in business that began last winter and never recovered. Even Valentine's Day, which should've been a killer, was off.
"Last weekend was the last straw," the employee said, stating they had only 30 patrons last Friday night in the spacious 115-year-old mansion. Another recent night had only seven. Even so, the employee said, the closing still came as a shock.
"There were a lot of tears tonight," the employee said.
More after the jump.
New Orleans Manor opened in 1977 in the mansion built by Col. E.W. Cole, former president of Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway. According to the restaurant's history page, founder Iona Senecal leased the former Colemere Club and ran the restaurant for the next 31 years with her family, dishing out "all you care to eat" buffet-style braziers of Asian frog legs, oysters Rockefeller, crab legs, shrimp Creole and prime rib for $34.50.
In the 1980s, the steep price tag and ritzy locale near the airport made New Orleans Manor one of those dining destinations, like the late Mario's or Julian's, where people went to commemorate an anniversary or retirement. Over the years, though, young singles flocked elsewhere, as did the city's hardcore foodies.
Owners Douglas and Heather Wright have not announced what they will do next. Nor is the fate of the historic mansion decided. Employees too are at a loss. Some have worked there as long as 25 years, including one woman who was employed alongside her two daughters. She was reportedly called back from her daughter's freshman orientation at UT.
This statement was posted on the restaurant's website:
We have with sorrow watched as many of Nashville's family owned, and independent restaurants have closed around us.
Our Family started the New Orleans Manor in 1977 and has been serving the all you care to eat Seafood feast since.... All of us love the historic home deeply the "manor" as we call it and are devastated to leave. Our staff over the years has been wonderful we have loved them all and are like family to us, we regret to no longer be able to offer employment to Nashville.
Due to various economic reasons, and state interference, we are deeply saddened that we cannot continue serve Nashville.
We would like to offer a heartfelt Thank You to our many loyal guests over the past years.