Through the years Pat O'Brien's has been and always will be an important part of New Orleans culture.
At the end of prohibition in 1933, Pat O'Brien converted his speakeasy to a legitimate drinking establishment in the 600 block of St. Peter Street called, of course, Pat O'Brien's. Business was good and the bar was always filled with neighborhood folks. There was a little upright piano in the corner for entertainment and there was always lively conversation. A few years later Pat realized that he had outgrown his little space. He and his friend Charlie Cantrell decided to become partners and buy the building at 718 St. Peter Street, the building that is now home to the world famous bar. The structures were originally built circa 1791 and became home to the first French Theater Company in New Orleans.
In the mid 1940's, Pat O'Brien's Bar propelled when the Hurricane Drink was created. At that time, there was short supply of liquor such as whiskey, bourbon and scotch. There was, however, access to rum coming up the river. Bar owners were forced to buy large quantities of rum, 50 cases or so, in order to purchase other liquor. Through trial and error, they came up with a drink that everyone loved! Pat O'Brien paired it up with a glass shaped like a Hurricane lamp and the drink was perfected!
Under the management of George Oechsner Jr., Pat O'Brien's quickly became the most popular bar in New Orleans. The new concept of dueling piano players in the Piano Lounge had everyone dancing in the aisles. The Main Bar was a mainstay for neighborhood friends, and the Patio a perfect place to socialize.
When he was old enough to hold a broom, Mr. Oechsner brought his son, Sonny, to help clean up. As he grew older his job duties changed, and so did his passion for Pat O'Brien's. In the late 1970's, Sonny Oechsner and his father began to buy the business with a vision of greatness. Sonny realized the potential of the brand and pursued the concept of franchising. He also realized the need for private parties and purchased a building on Bourbon Street when opportunity arose. At this time, the company has four independently owned franchises, two restaurants in New Orleans, an online catalog, a bottling plant and endless possibilities.
Even though the corporation has branched out, the main reason for its success is the fervor New Orleanians have for the place. "Even though millions of people visit Pat O's every year, locals are the reason the doors stay open" says Shelly Oechsner Waguespack, Vice President. "Locals are the heart and soul of what we are all about... Passion for fun and life."