George 'Sonny' Oeschner III, the 71 year old owner of the iconic French Quarter bar Pat O'Brien's, died of cancer early Monday morning. Pat O'Brien's has long been a family-owned business, with Sonny Oeschner taking over upon his father's death in 1990; his father had been involved in the bar since the 1940s. While Sonny remained involved in the bar's leadership right up until the end, his daughter Shelly Waguespack now assumes leadership of the business that includes the popular bar at Bourbon and St. Peter, its restaurant, franchise locations in Orlando and San Antonio and a private event space inside Jax Brewery.
According to a statement on Pat O'Brien's website, the bar will be closed early today for memorial services but will reopen at 4PM. And for any kind-hearted souls thinking about sending gifts, "In lieu of flowers the family has asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society."
The Times-Pic has more, noting that Sonny oversaw the expansion that added all of the above to the company. But despite that expansion, the"centerpiece of the business has remained" the French Quarter bar and the drink?the Hurricane?that made it famous. Additionally, "While he wasn't an effusive tavern keeper, 'he was very good to employees,' said Charlie Bateman, Pat O'Brien's vice president. 'He was a giving person.'"
Disclosure: I date a Pat O's employee.