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TRAVEL - INTERVIEW

Interview with Chelsea O'Lansen, Director of Sales and Marketing at Catahoula Hotel from New Orleans

The historical building that hosts Catahoula Hotel is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans. I talked with Chelsea O'Lansen about Catahoula Hotel and New Orleans.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Catahoula Hotel - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Catahoula Hotel - Photo by Elsa Hahne

TRAVEL - INTERVIEW

by Melisa Kaya

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New Orleans has its own cultural diversity, historical texture, and architectural heritage. When you visit a city that has its own architectural culture like New Orleans, it may be a good experience to stay in a building where you can feel this heritage more closely. Catahoula Hotel offers a different New Orleans experience with its building, its location, and Piscobar. I talked with Chelsea O'Lansen, Director of Sales and Marketing at Catahoula Hotel, about Catahoula Hotel and New Orleans.

Chelsea O Lansen - Photo by JRDN Creative

Chelsea O'Lansen - Photo by JRDN Creative

Chelsea, before talking about Catahoula Hotel, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Chelsea O'Lansen?

I moved to New Orleans in 2009 to attend Tulane University where I received an ill-advised degree in Film Studies and English. I have been at the Catahoula Hotel for almost two years now.

Catahoula Hotel - Photo by Pinpoint Imagery

Catahoula Hotel - Photo by Pinpoint Imagery

The history of the building that host Catahoula Hotel dates back to 1845. Please tell us about your building and Catahoula Hotel's location.

The building is located in New Orleans Central Business District which was originally platted and subdivided as Faubourg Sainte Marie in the early 1800s. The district is only a few blocks from the French Quarter and was the first organized land expansion outside of the historic quarter. Unfortunately, very few of these original structures are left in the district - Catahoula is one of the remaining that was restored by our team in 2016.

The building was designed and constructed by James Gallier, a renowned architect who designed many other important buildings in the city, such as Gallier Hall. We found his name inked on paper in the original 1845 property ledger at New Orleans Historic Archives. It was designed as a “Creole Townhouse” and served as fashionable retail space on the ground floor (Piscobar & front desk) with ritzy downtown apartments above. Service quarters were attached in the back (one still remains, where rooms 3, 4, 23 & 24 are located) and 4 stables lined the rear of the property (room 7). It should be noted that New Orleans was a progressive city at this time and families who had service workers were not necessarily enslaved, thus the service quarters were most likely NOT slave-quarters. Between the dwelling and the stables was an open-air courtyard for trash, cooking, repairs and other activities. The horses and workers entered this area through an open-air arch corridor, which still remains and runs straight through the kitchen and is the entrance to Piscobar!

When we purchased the building in 2013, it had been vacant for 20 years and in very bad disrepair. Prior to that, it was being used as a medical facility for NOPSI, New Orleans’ power company. Workers & contractors for NOPSI would come through the building for their pre-employment examination or if they were hurt on the job. Anyone who worked for NOPSI has been through our building!

Catahoula Hotel - Premier - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Catahoula Hotel - Premier - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Could you tell us about the Catahoula Hotel and the overall concept?

Catahoula is a completely independent brand conceived by our team and was started as a modern & urban alternative to guest houses, bed and breakfasts & homestays. It meets many traveler’s needs who want some conveniences of a hotel but don’t want to pay for all the extras and full service. Additionally, we offer a robust bar, food & events program that is constantly updating. It attracts tourists and locals to gather under our roof, even if they are not guests, and creates a fun environment every day of the week.

Catahoula Hotel - Master Bedroom - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Catahoula Hotel - Master Bedroom - Photo by Elsa Hahne

What kind of different room options do you offer to your guests? Could you tell us about their features and design details?

Because we were working with an original structure, no two rooms are alike. We offer 7 room types. We have a master suite with a double shower head, seating area, balcony, plush linens, extra pillows, two TVs and bar setup. There’s also a bunk room with 4 single beds. We have apartment suites with 9-foot tall windows that lead out to balconies with the original 1800’s wrought iron patterns. They have kitchens and feel like a Parisian pied-a-terre.

All rooms have an indoor-outdoor. Every room has a window, we incorporate plants into the rooms and corridors, the room bathrooms are deconstructed into vanity/desks, showers open to the room and water closets for the toilet. This gives the room a more open feel. We utilize small, energy efficient ac units to minimize ductwork which make the ceilings taller. The interiors are very clean and minimalist, with custom finishes. We use a unique plaster in the showers with wood decking so they feel like an outdoor shower.

Catahoula Hotel - Midnight Noodle Spread - Photo by JRDN Creative

Catahoula Hotel - Midnight Noodle Spread - Photo by JRDN Creative

What would you want to say about the gastronomic diversity of New Orleans?

Since I moved here a decade ago, the New Orleans food scene has grown by leaps and bounds, especially for vegans! New Orleans somewhat secretly has some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. A lot of the rotating pop-up restaurants we host on Sunday feature cuisine made by second or third generation immigrants who want to engage and experiment with the food their parents and grandparents made. We have an amazing Filipino pop-up in our rotation called Gâta and we just waved a sad but exciting goodbye to our longtime Sunday pop-up kitchen, Long Chim Nola, who will be making their amazing Thai food full-time at Auction House Market soon.

Catahoula Hotel - Midnight Noodle Spread - Photo by JRDN Creative

Catahoula Hotel - Midnight Noodle Spread - Photo by JRDN Creative

Catahoula Hotel is host to Midnight Noodle. Could you tell us about Midnight Noodle and Melvin Stovall?

Midnight Noodle is a casual plant-based, Taiwanese eatery, serving up vegan cuisine at the Catahoula Hotel Monday - Saturday evenings. Our chef, Melvin Stovall, is so young that he doesn’t understand any of my dated references! Melvin is 23 years old and is definitely someone to watch in the NOLA food scene. Midnight Noodle just got a Readers’ Choice nod on Eater NOLA and has been feeding an ever-growing crowd since he was nominated!

Catahoula Hotel - Piscobar - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Catahoula Hotel - Piscobar - Photo by Elsa Hahne

And there is another gastronomic place in Catahoula Hotel. What kind of experiences can your guests live in Piscobar at the Catahoula?

Piscobar is our lobby-level cocktail bar, with a single-spirit focus on Peruvian Pisco, an unaged grape brandy. As a wine nerd, Pisco is one of the most exciting spirits to me as it can be a really pure and cool expression of the place it was made and the grapes it’s distilled from. Our bartenders are all very talented and love entertaining “Dealer’s Choice” requests, in which the guest provides a few key descriptors of their dream cocktail and we make it happen.

What are the privileges that you offer to companies that want to organize their meetings and events in Catahoula Hotel?

We have two gorgeous venues for private events. We can host groups of up to 75 on our Rooftop Terrace, which makes for a great outdoor cocktail party. We can host similarly sized groups on the lobby-level at Piscobar and in our Courtyard. For larger events--and I think this is especially cool for brand activations--all of the spaces can be rented in tandem, which is really fun because you can create a handful wildly different + immersive atmospheres as guests traverse the Hotel.

Catahoula Hotel - Courtyard - Photo by Pinpoint Imagery

Catahoula Hotel - Courtyard - Photo by Pinpoint Imagery

How could your guests spend time at Catahoula Hotel?

Drinking coffee and reading on the Rooftop Terrace in the morning. Getting some serious remote work done in our beautiful Courtyard. We’re a 5-minute jaunt from the French Quarter. Folks in New Orleans take the walking tour approach to dinner: having a small bite and a cocktail at one restaurant before sauntering over to the next. We definitely recommend taking advantage of our Happy Hour before restaurant-hopping through the Quarter for dinner or before a Saints game at the Superdome.

When New Orleans is called, New Orleans Festivals come to mind first. What is the importance of these festivals in New Orleans tourism and lifestyle?

Springtime is also Festival Time and the city is super lively. It’s a pretty even mix of out-of-towners and locals attending events like Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest. People joke about how there’s a festival for everything here, and that seems true for food! There’s a Macaroni and Cheese Festival, Beignet Festival, Po’Boy Festival...

How do you feel the impact of these periods in Catahoula Hotel?

We’re super busy and everyone is in a great mood! We see a lot of hotel guests stop by every evening after coming back from festivals, a little sunburnt but in good spirits and with a lot to say about the musicians they saw that day.

Catahoula Hotel - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Catahoula Hotel - Photo by Elsa Hahne

What kind of additional services do you offer for business travellers?

We offer pretty speedy free wifi + printing services at our Front Desk for business travellers. There are conventional and USB outlets galore in the common areas at the Hotel, making the lobby and Café great places to work remotely from.

How can travelers make their individual or business/group reservations?

Individual reservations can be made online at catahoulahotel.com or by phone at (504) 603-2442. Guests can also call the Hotel for group reservation info.

Catahoula Hotel - Guest Room - Photo by Elsa Hahne

Catahoula Hotel - Guest Room - Photo by Elsa Hahne

What are the most famous attractions near you?

We are a 5-minute walk from the French Quarter and a 10-minute walk to Jackson Square. One of my favorite off-the-beaten-path attractions near the Square is the Pharmacy Museum. It's a bit macabre, but the grounds are beautiful and the exhibits are fascinating if you have any interest in medical history. We are also a stone's throw from some great theaters, like The Saenger, which was initially built in 1927 and is just as ornate as you'd expect a theater initially pitched as "Florentine" to be.

If you have only one weekend in New Orleans as a first-time visitor, in this limited time, what are the best things to do?

Eat everything! Walk down Bourbon Street for exactly 5 minutes and then get outta there! Go see some music on Frenchmen Street. Enjoy the non-existent open container laws. Go on a bike tour: the city is completely flat and our bike infrastructure is getting better and better thanks to grassroots organizations like BikeEasy. It’s cheesy but I do always take out-of-towners on a swamp tour or at least on a quick walk on the boardwalk at Jean Lafitte.

How do you describe New Orleans in one sentence?

I’m changing this to three words:

Decadent, colorful, ancient.

Thank you Chelsea for your time.

For more information, please click here to visit the website of Catahoula Hotel





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