For nearly two decades, One Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter could be counted on for a few things: dance parties spilling onto Toulouse Street, fast bartenders slinging nonstop drinks, and crowds of happy revelers admiring live performances. Now, the bar and nightclub’s new owners, themselves well-versed in New Orleans’s live music scene, hope to continue the building’s legacy as a haven of entertainment with the opening of the Toulouse Theatre.
Ben Jaffe, the creative director of New Orleans’s Preservation Hall, is reopening the club with his wife Jeanette and another local couple, Clayton and Boo Randle, along with the help of “several unnamed music industry investors,” according to NOLA.com, a group that collectively purchased the building at 615 Toulouse St. in late 2020. (NOLA.com’s report notes a rumor that the unnamed music industry investors include famed drummer Dave Grohl, an apparent friend of Jaffe’s, but says there are nondisclosure agreements regarding the behind-the-scenes investors.)
The renovated club will reopen as the Toulouse Theatre, which was the venue’s original name, on Friday, October 29, with legendary queen of bounce Big Freedia kicking off three nights of shows. The Theatre plans to host DJ nights, local performers, and touring national names, though only a handful of shows outside of Halloween weekend are listed on the calendar so far, all scheduled for December.
The space first opened as the Toulouse Theatre in 1961, hosting films, cabaret, and musicals for decades until 1999, when it became the Shim Sham Club. In 2002, Los Angeles natives Ryan Hesseling and Rio Hackford took over the lease, calling it One Eyed Jacks and bringing in big-name bands, becoming a festival-adjacent destination for live music. Hesseling told Eater in early 2021 that he was looking to the return of events like Jazz Fest to get back on track, saying at the time, “We’ve started booking bands for April 2022. We’ll get back, there’s just no telling exactly when.”
While Hesseling and his partners never did reopen One Eyed Jacks, Jaffe is a friend and industry figure, a New Orleans native born to the founders of Preservation Hall who grew up in the French Quarter. He’s brought in a number of New Orleans music venue and hospitality veterans from places like the Orpheum and Hotel Peter and Paul to staff Toulouse Theatre, according to NOLA.com.
The club’s rebirth is the latest in a slew of recent wins for New Orleans’s live music venues — small but legendary dive Saturn Bar just reopened under new owners after shuttering in November 2020, as did Freret Street music venue Gasa Gasa, reopening in February 2021. Perhaps most excitingly, New Orleans’s historic Dew Drop Inn is poised for revival after years of attempts, with a well-liked local developer getting the go-ahead earlier this year to reopen the Dew Drop as a hotel, music venue, and bar.
Toulouse Theatre opens Friday, October 29, with Big Freedia at 10 p.m. The club’s regular hours following opening weekend are to be announced.