Earlier this week, news surfaced that a deal is 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 come as its longtime owner, Roland Von Kurnatowski, faces a number of lawsuits from investors surrounding bounced checks and unpaid debts totalling nearly $3M.
Initially, the identity of the venue’s potential buyers and their plans for the space were unclear. WWL-TV now reports that multiple sources close to the negotiations have confirmed that local funk-outfit Galactic has been working on a deal to purchase the iconic Big Easy venue from Von Kurnatowski.
Galactic has a longstanding history with Tipitina’s that dates back to the early 1990’s, 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 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. As WWL-TV notes, the couple would likely have to stop using the Tipitina’s name for the foundation should they choose to sell the venue.
WWL-TV also notes that, “Several sources associated with the club have said they hope Galactic buys Tipitina’s to keep it alive as a cultural touchstone on the New Orleans live music scene. Members of the band declined to confirm that the deal was in the works, but people with direct knowledge of the negotiations said it has been for some time and could be finalized soon.”