Karate studio’s going — but not without a fight

Published 2:21 am Saturday, January 23, 2016

Standing amid bricks, old boards and hundreds of pounds of metal wreckage, city councilman at-large Doug Ritchie was a happy man Thursday.

Two years after a fire tore through the Bayou Tang Soo Do karate studio, the two-story building was finally starting to come down.

“I’ve been after it for two years to get it torn down,” he said.

Ritchie said the building, at 218 Alabama Ave., had been home to a bakery and a restaurant. For the last 20 years, it had been owned by the Busby family and housed Stacy Busby’s karate studio.
Busby said he believes the building was built sometime between 1925 and 1930.

After the fire, Busby said he wanted to repair the building.

“I did go and contact an engineer and he came in, and he said there’s a weak spot in the back of the building, but the building could be saved,” Busby said.

Busby said the city did not properly notify him that they were considering condemning the building and that they condemned it without giving him time to fix it. Because of this, Busby said he plans to fight the city in court.

“Every time I’ve tried to do something, the city has said I cant do that and I can’t do this and that’s why the building is in the situation it is now,” he said. “I am totally aggravated and fed up with the city. They don’t protect you.”

Busby, who teaches self-defense, likened the city government to a bully.

“I have taught martial arts for 20-plus years on how to defend against bullies, but the biggest bully I’ve met is the city,” he said.

Busby said the old building was an important landmark, and historically significant.

“I constantly have people calling me, saying yeah, their families were associated with the building years ago,” Busby said. “That building goes way back. There was a lot of character and history with the building. If I can go in there and save the building, I know I can, but the city is determined to (demolish) it. I don’t have an opportunity.”

Whatever historical significance of the building may have had was diminished in the eyes of the building’s neighbors.

Both Ritchie and Floyd Burdeaux own businesses next door to the building. Ritchie owns a funeral parlor and Burdeaux a used car lot. Burdeaux said that a month-and-a-half ago, bricks from the building smashed down one of his cars, wholly ruining it, and damaging a second car.
In total, Burdeaux said the incident cost him $4,200 in losses he still hasn’t been able to collect.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over,” Burdeaux said, of the teardown.

Ritchie, too, was unsentimental as work crews dismantled the building.

“I’ll just be glad to see it gone,” he said.

But even if it’s gone, the fight may not be over. Busby said he has filed a lawsuit against the city over the loss of his building.

On Friday, Mayor Wendy Perrette said she had no knowledge of any lawsuit.

“I am not aware of a lawsuit against the city at this time,” she said.

She added that Busby was given months to repair the building, but did nothing.

“It went through the condemnation proceedings,” she said. “He was given 90 days or 180 days to come into compliance with the building and he didn’t follow the procedures that were necessary. And then it fell, and nothing was done about it.”

Brenda Ford, the city council secretary, said city council minutes showed that Busby was given 90 days to fix the building on Jan. 20 2015.

Then, on Jan. 5 of this year, the council voted to hire Air Pro Heating and Cooling LLC to demolish the building.

Ritchie said the building would have been gone sooner, except the process of condemning it and finding funds to pay a contractor to tear the building down took time.

Ritchie said it is still not clear what caused the fire.