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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#2474 - Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans - 3/21/2014

Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans.LA
A few years ago, in a dive bar in Renton, Washington, I was discussing our mutual love of dives with a fellow there and he told me, "I like bars that have Christmas lights up all year round." That struck me as pithy and particularly evocative description of these places we both liked. I'm quite confident that this fellow never went to Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge, for otherwise he surely would included it at the top of the list of suggestions he gave me.

For people like me and my fellow barfly of that night, one look at a photo of Snake and Jake's guarantees that we will be there some day. How to describe it? Let's allow the owner have a go: "Decrepit chic is the best I could describe Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge. It's really a tin shack. I would call it the tin shack shit hole or late night bar." (Owner Dave Clements)  A lot of the descriptions include "shed, "shack" or "garage," but from the outside it looks less like any of those than like a loosely assembled fort thrown together by 12-year-olds in a junkyard. A bartender explains that the bar is held together with "nicotine and regret." (ibid)

Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans.LA
And despite that -- let's be honest, largely because of that -- the bar is said to have hosted Anthony Bourdain, George Clooney, Jude Law, Quentin Tarantino, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and erstwhile nextdoor neighbor Dr. John. Inside its dark confines they mix with students from nearby Tulane, slackers, rockers, artists and old fogeys -- although it can be hard to recognize any of them in the dim glow of the red Christmas lights that account for most the visible light.

The bar is well off the beaten track in a residential neighborhood in the Uptown area. It opens at 7pm, doesn't close until 7am, and doesn't really get going until 1am or 3am ("Snake-o-clock"), depending on who you talk to. If you are bar hopping it is sure to be your last stop of the night. The regulars are eclectic, funny, and sardonic. This character was even on display after Hurricane Katrina, when TV news showed the roof of the building with a message for the FEMA rescue helicopters, "NEED ICE." Their house drink is called a "Possum Drop," an homage to a night when a ceiling tile with a live possum crashed onto a patron's head.

Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans.LA
The bar and house behind it once belonged to Richard "Snake" Brown. It was called the “S&J Lounge" back then, and the current name is simply a combination of this and an even earlier one. Dave Clements has explained, "When my partner and I bought the property many, many years ago, it was an existing bar called S&J. It had a sign up. We also had the sign from the previous bar, which was The Christmas Lounge, named after a man called Sam Christmas. They had Christmas lights in there, but it was actually his last name. I didn’t find that out for years until he was riding down the street one day, and some guy went, ‘There goes Sam Christmas!’ And I go, ‘What?’ I really can’t remember who came up with the combination, but ‘Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge’ sort of rolled off the tongue. So that’s what we named the bar.”

The secret has long been out. Snake and Jake's is commonly included in lists of the country's best dive bars and best bars in New Orleans. Several call it the best dive bar in the world. And I can't think of any compelling argument to the contrary.


7612 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118 - (504) 861-2802
Est. 1994
Previous bars in this location: The Christmas Lounge, S&J Lounge
Web site: snakeandjakes.com
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