Just a few short weeks after Avenue Pub went on the market, putting New Orleans’s beer world on edge, there’s big news for the bar’s future. The owners of exceedingly popular barbecue spot Blue Oak BBQ have teamed up with two other local hospitality veterans to purchase and run the bar, with plans to keep it the Avenue Pub.
Avenue Pub owner Polly Watts confirmed to Eater on Tuesday that a deal is in the works with Blue Oak founders Ronnie Evans and Philip Moseley and the owners of Frenchmen Street bar the Rambler, Steve Jeffcoat and Ryan Noland, as first reported by the Times Picyaune/New Orleans Advocate.
When Avenue Pub went on sale in early August, the bar was listed for $1.7 million. Despite a number of offers, Watts chose this group in part because of their plans to keep it Avenue Pub, Watts says — they committed to operating the bar similarly and retaining the current staff. Blue Oak is known for having relatively strong employee benefits, like medical and dental insurance and paid time off, in addition to above-average pay ($16-$22 per hour, the restaurant says). They were also quick to try to help hospitality workers when the pandemic hit, holding weekly free meal giveaways for service industry workers.
It’s a new chapter for a bar, first opened by Watts’s father in 1987, that means so many different things to different people: a 24-hour haven for late shift workers; a cutting-edge beer hub for enthusiasts; and one of the city’s leading pub food destinations. Eater has asked new owners about their plans for a return to 24-hour service, which the bar was known for from its founding up until the pandemic. Watts just recently reinstated 24-hour service on weekends only, telling Eater she was testing the waters while considering a full return to the bar’s pre-pandemic hours.
The biggest change sounds like it will be with the food menu, though even that will continue a focus on dishes featuring smoked meats. Avenue Pub became known for its food after Boucherie’s Nathanial Zimet took over the menu in 2015, heavily incorporating the locally-sourced meats butchered at Boucherie. Owners are creating a new bar food menu using meats from Blue Oak smokers, dishes like a tater tot poutine, stuffed boudin balls, a fried chicken sandwich, shrimp tacos, and smoked chicken wings, which is one of few items borrowed from the original Blue Oak menu. They plan to bring in more TVs and want to make it a Saints and Premier League Soccer game day destination, but beyond that much will stay the same.
The sale of Avenue Pub is set to close in mid-September, at which point the new ownership group will take over. Watts will be on hand, however, to help run the bar’s annual Zwanze Day event (an international beer celebration), taking place on September 23 and 24, with will also serve as a farewell.