NEW ORLEANS -- Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle, made a promise to New Orleanians when they announced about a year ago that the couple had purchased Dixie Brewing Company: that Dixie beer would once again be brewed in New Orleans.
On Tuesday, months after his death, Gayle Benson announced plans for Dixie's return with an 80,000-square-foot brewery and brew pub to be built at the former MacFrugal's building in New Orleans East.
Dixie Beer was founded in 1907 and was brewed for many years at the company’s facility on Tulane Avenue, until it was moved to a brewing facility in 2005. When the Bensons announced their plans to purchase Dixie in July 2017, Tom Benson promised to bring Dixie back to the city where it belongs.
"I'm so thrilled to stand here and represent his vision," Gayle Benson said at a press conference Tuesday. "This is a project that we have been working on for a number of years ... and by placing our brewery here is something that Tom would have been so proud to see ... No one believed in New Orleans more than my husband. He always wanted to do what he could to improve and build economic development in New Orleans. He is smiling today, knowing that Dixie Brewing Company is playing a small part as a catalyst for economic growth in a critical part of our city."
Saints President Dennis Lauscha agreed.
"He absolutely fell in love with this site," Lauscha said at a press conference Tuesday. "To his last day, he asked me every day, ‘Have we closed on the property in the East?’ Well, Mr. Benson, I know you’re watching, we closed on the property in the East. And now we’re going to build you a brewery you’re going to be real proud of."
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the brewery and the jobs that will come with it will help to spur the revitalization of New Orleans East, "which we know she has deserved for a mighty long time."
"Thank you, for your commitment and your leadership, Miss Gayle, and keeping the legacy of our Tom Benson alive," Cantrell said. "You all have always been intentional in making investments in what makes New Orleans so unique. And you continue to do it, over and over again."