IN THE BEGINNING
Pat O’Brien ran a speakeasy in the 600 block of St. Peter street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, until the repeal of Prohibition.
When he officially opened the bar on December 3, 1933. He developed a friendship with Charlie Cantrell and after many years of fun and lots of poker games, the two men purchased the building that is now home to Pat O’Brien’s Bar at 718 St Peter street. This Historical Building was built in 1791 as a private home and later became the first Spanish Theatre in the United States. It was converted back to a private residence until 1942, when O’Brien and Cantrell purchased the spacious place to become home to one of the most iconic nightclubs in the United States. The old bar had an upright piano to entertain, but 718 St Peter allowed them to go bigger and better with two baby grand pianos … and dueling piano entertainment was born!
In the 1940’s many US distilleries were used to manufacture necessities for war time, and domestic liquor was scarce. However, Rum coming up the Mississippi river from the Caribbean islands was plentiful. In order to buy a case of Bourbon, for example, there was strong incentive to purchase large quantities of rum. With General manager George Oechsner Jr at the helm, the folks in the bar experimented with recipes, and eventually everyone agreed that passion fruit was a hit! A glass shaped like a hurricane lamp was the perfect vessel and the Hurricane drink became New Orleans favorite libation.
THE PIANO LOUNGE
The Original Dueling Piano Show
“Dueling pianos” concept evolved from the late 1890’s RAGTIME era, where two pianists would “duel” for the crowds attention and tips. Although there were two pianists at the original location, the new location provided much more space to accommodate two baby grand pianos. They tweaked the ragtime format to encourage audience participation by way of song requests. The show quickly became a favorite of locals, especially a few newspaper writers. Word spread across the country and propelled the bar’s already familiar name. Through the years a variety of performers have graced the stage…singers, horn players and, of course, tray tapping, but always with the accompaniment of talented entertainers at the copper topped pianos.
The show is largely dictated by the audience. The lounge is filled with fun energy to the delight of anyone who walks in the room. Often, there is a line to get in , but it’s well worth it. It’s a must do in New Orleans!
Shows typically are Monday-Thursday 6:00 pm – close and Friday, Saturday, Sunday 2:00 pm – close
George Oechsner and his son Sonny purchased Pat O’Brien’s Bar in 1978. It was their forward thinking that broadened the scope of the Pat O’s experience.
In 1990, 624 Bourbon street was purchased as a private event venue. Due to market demand, Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard Restaurant opened as a full service dining experience in 1996 and has been serving delicious food and specialty drinks ever since. For those looking for something more private, the BRIARS SUITE on the 2nd floor overlooking Bourbon Street is a beautiful quaint space. Our philosophy is deep rooted that our doors are open to everyone, so the search for an alternative off-site venue began. Since 1999, Pat O’s on the River has been touted as a premier private event venue featuring a spectacular view, exceptional food and beautiful atmosphere.
Sonny Oechsner brought the business to another level when he decided to franchise. In 1999, Pat O’Brien’s Orlando in Universal CityWalk opened its doors to the theme park crowd and jumped into local nightlife. Pat O’Brien’s San Antonio has been a downtown favorite since 2003. Both locations replicate and honor the long-time tradition of Pat O’ Brien’s, always committed to quality, consistency, value and
These days, the 3rd generation of the Oechsner family prevails along with many long-time, dedicated, and invaluable people. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about Pat O’s.