The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans

September 5, 2012 | By | Comments (4)
buffas institution The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans

Outside of Buffa’s Bar & Restaurant on Esplanade Avenue/ Photo by L. Kasimu Harris

On Sunday morning, Chuck Rogers climbed in an empty beer bin and slept for two-and-a-half hours. That was his most memorable moment from Hurricane Isaac. For almost a week, he and his family, who own the 73 year-old Buffa’s Bar and Restaurant, kept their neighborhood going with food, laughs drinks, and most importantly: electricity.

The place is your iconic neighborhood watering joint, where the staff is happy to pour you a sazerac, but most people go for a shot and a beer. Rogers took over the bar in 2010 as a business that he and his family could run together.

Rogers, 54, said people showed up in droves and some walked in the pouring rain and battering gust to avoid staying in their hot, dark homes. He and his family never thought about closing the bar, which was established in 1939. The white, two-story building with large oval windows and bar on the lower level, has endured every hurricane with minimal or no damage. They didn’t fear for safety.

Buffa’s is on the French Quarter’s electrical grid, and only briefly lost power as the rest of New Orleans went dark. The bar is always open 24 hours and during Isaac, at any given time, 80-100 people was there drinking, talking, watching movies, and charging electronics.

patrons recharge The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans

Patrons used Buffa’s as home base to recharge computers and phones/ Photo by L. Kasimu Harris

“We didn’t expect that we would end up almost living there,” said Tom Carson, 55, a writer, who lives nearby with his wife. “Our house was stinking hot and there was nothing to do.”

Carson had stories to file through the hurricane and after. He blogged about the Republican National Convention for GQ, and wrote about the hurricane for American Prospect going back-and-forth between his home and the bar to recharge his computer and check email.

For five days, Carson repeatedly checked the city’s electricity provider’s website in vain—he still had no power. His wife, Arion Berger, said she started getting antsy.

“Being in New Orleans, we’re used to sitting in bars for an extended time,” said Berger, 47,  also a writer. “But, on the fifth day, I was ready to go to work again.”

Carson and his wife met more of their neighbors in those few days than they had during the last year.

serving the people The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans

Aaron Rogers keeps guests fed and hydrated/ Photo by L. Kasimu Harris

Beyond the draw of cold beer and electric outlets was a makeshift emergency food c0-op. The locals brought foods from their freezer and the bar cooks whipped up dishes like “seven beans and rice” and “hurricane gumbo.” The only pay was what customers put in the tip jar.

“We depend on our customers to remain in business,” Rogers said. “But, in times like this, they depend on us to be in business.”

Regardless of the weather, Buffa’s will always have regulars.

vintage photos2 The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans

Vintage photographs of Bubba’s and the original owner/ Photo by L. Kasimu Harris

This is a guest blog by L. Kasimu Harris. Harris is a writer and photographer living in New Orleans. His column “Parish Chic” appears weekly in OxfordAmerican.org.

COMMENTS

  1. Rhonda Wheeler

    Yaay! Zoe and Squishy! Thanks Buffa’s! You all worked your asses off during Isaac!

    September 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm
  2. Leah Johnson

    Definitely proud to call NOLA my home of 12 years. One of my friends actually went to Buffa’s during the storm. I wish I would have known that it was been open during Isaac! I would have gone to charge my cell phone and my laptop!

    September 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm
  3. New Orleans: Why I Return – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] Links: Southern Living: The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans Southern Living: After Hurricane Isaac, Residents Answer the Question “To Stay or To […]

    September 9, 2012 at 10:01 am
  4. KJ

    Great post and photos, Kasimu. New Orleans is the place I’m proud to call home. This is an excellent portrayal of the generosity of my fellow Orleans parishioners.

    September 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm

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