Earlier in November, news surfaced that a deal was in the works to sell iconic New Orleans venue Tipitina’s in light of recent lawsuits and financial insecurity, according to a report from local New Orleans news outlet WWL-TV. The reported plans to sell Tipitina’s came as its longtime owner, Roland Von Kurnatowski, faces a number of lawsuits from investors surrounding bounced checks and unpaid debts totaling nearly $3M.
Initially, the identity of the venue’s potential buyers and their plans for the space were unclear. Today, Galactic has officially confirmed their purchase of the beloved New Orleans club from Von Kurnatowski and his wife Mary, after recently finalizing the deal.
Galactic’s drummer Stanton Moore stated in a press release, “Our goal is to preserve, promote, and protect the future of New Orleans music, culture and heritage via the Tipitina’s venue and brand.”
Galatic’s saxophonist Ben Ellman added,
We’re so incredibly honored to be part of the team tasked to be the current caretakers of such a historic venue. My connection with the club started way before I was lucky enough to take the stage. My first job in New Orleans was at Tipitina’s as a cook in the (now defunct) kitchen. The importance of respecting what Tips means for musicians and the city of New Orleans is not lost on us. We’re excited for the future of the club and look forward to all the amazing music and good times ahead!
Former owner Roland von Kurnatowski also noted,
We received multiple attractive offers for Tipitina’s. It was really important to us to ensure that this club, the icon that is Tipitina’s, end up in the right hands. We purchased the club in 1997 and have nurtured it ever since. We’re confident that Galactic is the right fit – that they will cherish Tipitina’s and take it to the next level while protecting all that makes Tips such an authentic American cultural venue.
Galactic has a longstanding history with Tipitina’s that dates back to the early 1990s, when the band was called Galactic Prophylactic. Galactic was started by Stanton Moore, Robert Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Jeff Raines, and Rich Vogel, who were students at Tulane and Loyola universities and ended up settling in the Uptown area of New Orleans around Tipitina’s. With their mentor Theryl DeClouet joining the band to assist on lead vocals, Galactic gained popularity around town and quickly started selling out shows at the iconic club. Moore, as well as fellow bandmates, have also had longtime involvement with the Tipitina’s Foundation started by Von Kurnatowski and his wife, Mary, which helps bring and teach music to kids in New Orleans. Tipitina’s Foundation was not part of the sale, and Von Kurnatowski will retain control of the foundation, which he founded.
Tipitina’s was originally founded by a group of New Orleans music fans as a performance venue for local musical legend Professor Longhair. It’s named for one of Longhair’s most famous songs, “Tipitina”, which has since become a beloved NOLA standard. Von Kurnatowski bought the venue in 1996, and while he was reportedly unaware of its particular history, he has since been dedicated to preserving its identity.