The recent news that Avenue Pub was up for sale thoroughly rattled New Orleans’s beer and booze world. There was one silver lining to the announcement, however: a planned return to Avenue Pub’s pre-pandemic, 24-hour service.
Like in most places, many 24/7 bars and restaurants in New Orleans scaled back hours at the onset of the pandemic (and kept them that way post-lockdown), like Cafe Du Monde and Buffa’s. In addition, several of the city’s oldest 24-hour haunts, like Johnny White’s Bar in the Quarter and two iconic greasy spoons, the 100-year-old St. Charles Tavern and the Trolley Stop Cafe, have closed since 2020. The two diners sat within a half mile of one another on a stretch of St. Charles Avenue that was once a hub for late night, from quirky 24/7 bar and laundromat, Igor’s, to perhaps the most beloved 24-hour haven of all, Avenue Pub.
Now, owner Polly Watts is testing the waters with a return to 24-hour service at Avenue Pub. The team is trying it out this weekend (“In layman’s terms that’s actually Thursday through Sunday morning,” she says) for the first time since before the pandemic. The bar is still a long way off from 24/7 service — it’s currently closed Monday and Tuesday — but, Watts says, “We’ll do the test run, see how it goes, and make the decision after two or three weeks.”
Watts always intended to return to 24-hour service, she says — after all, Avenue Pub has been an all-night watering hole since her father opened it in 1987. While the timing isn’t ideal (“Summer is a notoriously bad time to be a 24-hour bar in New Orleans,” Watts says), she remains optimistic. The pub is running industry service specials and bringing in folks for spotlight bartender shifts, like the bar’s former longtime general manager who will be making her “famous” bloody marys on Sunday mornings. “We might as well have fun with it,” says Watts.
“Is there enough demand to warrant it? Or do we pull back and try again in October? We’ll see,” she says.
There’s a new 24-hour destination on the horizon as well: a second location of Elysian Fields staple Melba’s. It’s an ambitious iteration of the funky daiquiri and hot plate spot, two levels with an open-air patio up top that’s set to open soon on Tulane Avenue (near the thoroughfare’s medical complex, a strategic location). It will serve breakfast, a staple at the location on Elysian Fields, as well as po’boys, fried fish and chicken, daily plates like red beans and rice, and Melba’s seemingly endless selection of daiquiris 24/7, like the original. Owner Scott Wolfe expects to open sometime this fall, the season when New Orleans restaurants reset after the late summer lull.
Despite a small number of examples, it’s a promising sign for a city that, outwardly, revolves around nightlife — the City of New Orleans says one-fifth of its economic activity happens after the typical workday is done, which is partly why it created an Office of Nighttime Economy this summer. Cafe du Monde, you’re up.