More than a year has passed since Crying Eagle Brewing Company officials first announced plans to build a full-service restaurant and microbrewery along the lakefront. Despite the challenges with COVID-19 restrictions and the setbacks from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, Crying Eagle President Eric Avery said the project is still in his sights.
“We have what I feel is one of the greatest development opportunities in the city’s history,” Avery said Wednesday. “To try and break ground on a multi-million dollar project on the lakefront is challenging, but I’m not going to give up that easily.”
The project will be located just west of the former Harrah’s Casino parking garage and will feature a rooftop bar, open courtyard and covered patio.
A spike in construction and labor costs after the hurricanes forced Avery to put the project on hold temporarily, he said.
“The estimated cost was around $3.5 million at the time of the announcement,” Avery said. “My last estimate about 30 days after Hurricane Delta was over $6 million for the same project. My goal is to wait it out a bit and let things stabilize a touch and get to work.”
Avery said he is also waiting for the COVID-19 vaccines to become readily available. He said this will help residents feel more comfortable frequenting local businesses.
“I think we’re two or three months away from breaking through with the vaccine and getting to some level of normal,” he said. “Just the times we’re in are a little uncertain.”
Business at Crying Eagle’s East McNeese Street location has been steady since the hurricanes, Avery said. Like other businesses in the area, the building suffered extensive damage from Laura and Delta. He credits the hard work of Crying Eagle staff in getting the business reopened three weeks after Laura’s Aug. 27 landfall.
“We had to replace the roof; anything on the roof got destroyed,” he said. “There was lots of exterior building damage. We repaired equipment failures. There was a lot of cleanup with trees. Water came into the building.”
Converting Crying Eagle into a microbrewery in June was one of the main reasons for its success in 2020, Avery said. The change opened up the taproom to serve wine, spirits and cocktails, in addition to craft beer.
“We made it through and did more than survive,” he said. “I would say we thrived. There are no limitations anymore for people not to come here.”
Switching Crying Eagle to a microbrewery was not related to COVID-19, but it did soften the restrictions imposed by the state, Avery said.
The support from customers after the hurricanes is not lost on Avery.
“It shouldn’t come as any surprise,” he said. “Last year pressed us to learn more, improve and never take anything for granted.”