N.O. event planner opening unique facility in Natchez

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 24, 2008

NATCHEZ — After working in the New Orleans event planning industry for 21 years, Andre de La Barre has relocated to Natchez — and he’s setting up shop.

On Valentine’s Day, La Barre plans to open his new multi-function facility in the Commercial Bank Building, which for well over a century has been used as a bank, post office and church.

He and his business partner, Joseph Burciaga, are calling their newest venture The Columns of Natchez.

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“There’s really nothing like it in Natchez,” he said.

La Barre said his facility can be rented for almost any type of event.

He only has one restriction.

“Don’t bust up the moulding,” he said.

La Barre said his facility is unique because it allows the user to rent the space for whatever they want.

“Most places you sign a contract and you get a bunch of restrictions,” he said. “Here if you want a valet, get a valet. If you want a gospel choir, get a gospel choir.”

La Barre also said his venue will offer something that very few other party venues offer — total party planning.

La Barre said he has already had one client express an interest in having him organize their entire wedding.

“We can do that too,” he said.

While the facility will not officially open until mid-February, La Barre has allowed the Historic Natchez Foundation to host a function at the unopened space.

Preservations director for the Foundation Mimi Miller was at the event.

“It’s certainly coming along,” she said.

Miller said the building has always been extremely well maintained and much of the work La Barre is doing is cosmetic, not restorative.

But for Miller, the type of work being done to the building is not as important as the fact that work is being done.

“The building continues to be useful,” she said. “And it contributes to the economy in Natchez.”

La Barre said he and his crew have been doing renovations since November.

On Valentine’s Day, La Barre’s grand opening will be open to the public.

“It’s going to be a pretty good time,” he said.

Wine and cheeses will be served in the bank’s old vaults.

“Natchez is going to have a lot happening here. It’s a destination town,” he said. “And we want to be a part of that.”