The Starlight bar and lounge in the French Quarter strives to be your local living room away from home
It’s easy to imagine the building at 817 St. Louis St. in the French Quarter in its earliest incarnation as a residence to the Bacas family when it was built in the late 1770s. The Bacases were a family of woodworkers known for their work on the choir loft at St. Louis Cathedral. Their craft is evidenced by the sturdy construction, pristine fireplace mantels, moulding, winding stair railing and — on the second floor — narrow oak-plank flooring with inlay detailing around the perimeter.
The building remained a private home until the ‘50s and has since housed several bars, a jazz club and a restaurant. Most notably the location housed Petunias restaurant, popular from its opening in the 1970s until Hurricane Katrina, after which it never managed to get back up and running.
At a Glance
Address: 817 St. Louisiana St.
Office completed: January 2018
Architect: Built in 1779 by the Bacas family, known for their woodwork on the St. Louis Cathedral
Interior Designer: Bar owner Linda Novak
Square footage: Approximately 2,500
Main goal: To create a cozy space with a residential atmosphere
Standout Feature: Woodwork throughout the space, including the fireplace mantels, moulding, stair railing and oak flooring
Since January 2018, the space has been home to The Starlight, a cozy craft cocktail bar featuring early and late evening live music, Friday-night dance parties, second-floor event space and, as of the writing of this piece, a kitchen specializing in Venezuelan food. Owner Linda Novak likes to think of it as a French Quarter living room for both residents and visitors.
“I wanted it to evoke an [earlier] era, with an authentic, older, French Quarter feel,” says Novak, one of the former owners of Pal’s in Mid-City. She says she tackled the approximately 2,500-square-foot interior the way many people approach decorating their home. “I’ve been living with the space and redecorating the rooms.”
On the first floor, there are two main “living rooms” and a covered courtyard. The first room houses a dark wood bar, an exposed brick wall, a piano near the windows in the front and high-top tables with blue damask-upholstered bar stools. The blue damask is continued in the second room, which also has banquettes and low-slung chairs, giving it a more lounge-like atmosphere. The walls are painted dark blue with gold accents. There are images from Novak’s photographer friends hung throughout the space, which depict raucous scenes from New Orleans bars and local parties from the ‘90s.
In the courtyard, where the dance parties break out on Fridays and continue until the wee hours, the jukebox is stocked with New Orleans-style rhythm-and-blues from the ‘50s and ‘60s, much of it from local musicians. Mini disco balls are strung throughout the room, as are garlands of greenery, which compliments plants in windowboxes hung from the balcony. It is furnished with black metal bistro sets, paired with modern-style webbed outdoor chairs.
The upstairs event space, where Novak plans to start holding yoga happy hours, has three interconnected rooms: The Dauphin and Toulouse rooms face the balcony, which overlooks St. Louis Street. Ten-foot doors lead into sparsely furnished rooms with plaster walls extending up to 16-foot ceilings and simple blue armchairs. There are fireplaces in each room with white painted mantels and a mysterious portrait of a woman holding a green apple hangs in one of the rooms.
Novak says she wants to keep drink prices “local friendly” and for the look to continue to evolve. She says she is pleased, however, with the way it has come together so far, adding, “It feel like going to a friend’s house for a cocktail and listening to music.”