Whats next for tamales?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Barring a lengthy legal fight, Fat Mama&8217;s Tamales could be open in a new location before the end of the year, according to owner David Gammill.

The restaurant&8217;s current location at D.A. Biglane and Canal streets was bought in recent months by the National Park Service, which gave the restaurant until April 30 to vacate the building.

&8220;We&8217;re looking at June 1 to start (construction), then taking four to eight months for construction,&8221; Gammill said.

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That&8217;s if 20 people living nearby the restaurant&8217;s proposed new location at Canal and Washington streets don&8217;t appeal a ruling by Circuit Judge Forrest &8220;Al&8221; Johnson &8212; something they still haven&8217;t decided on.

Tuesday Johnson upheld a ruling to rezone a lot at Canal and Washington streets to B-2, allowing Fat Mama&8217;s to relocate there.

Aldermen voted late last year to rezone the lot at Canal and Washington from open land to B-2 business, which allows for restaurants and a number of other businesses by right rather than variance. The 20 plaintiffs filed suit to appeal the aldermen&8217;s decision.

Meanwhile, the park service is proceeding with plans to acquire the entire site of the old Fort Rosalie, said Kathleen Jenkins, acting director of the Natchez National Historical Park.

&8220;We own just over seven acres of the upper bluff and will pursue the remaining four properties with all deliberate speed as money allows and as the owners are willing to sell,&8221; Jenkins said.

She added that the park service, which acquired half of that seven acres through a court ruling last fall, plans to turn the old fort site into park and picnicking area with trails and signs interpreting the site.

Two buildings will remain: a Victorian house that once served as the park service visitors&8217; center and the Fat Mama&8217;s building, originally built in the 1930s as a tourist attraction on the old fort site.

Meanwhile, the next step for Gammill and his architect, Johnny Waycaster, will be to get plans for the new building approved by the city&8217;s architectural review board next month.

In any case, Fat Mama&8217;s will have to close, if only for a few months, Gammill said.

His advice for fans of the restaurant&8217;s tamales and margaritas? &8220;Come in and get them while you can.&8221;