The Swamp Room, a storied Metairie bar known for late nights, dark ambiance and big burgers, will close after last call Wednesday.
By the fall, however, a new Swamp Room is slated to open about two blocks away, with a local contractor pledging to build a “bigger, better” Swamp Room that doesn't surrender the current spot's back-of-town charm.
The bar, which dates back to at least 1973, has been a dimly lit finish line for a long jaunt on the town or an after-hours den for people working nights.
Lately though, its future has been murkier than swamp water. The bar lost its lease at 5216 Veterans Memorial Blvd. at the end of 2018 and has been operating on a month-to-month basis.
Since word got around in March that it could soon close, fans have been living drink to drink and burger to burger, awaiting news of its fate.
Swamp Room owner Lance Latour said he learned this week that the bar will have to vacate by June 1. The Swamp Room will continue with business as usual through Wednesday night, then close May 30 and 31 to dismantle and clear out, he said.
But even as the bar's status has been in limbo, a new owner has stepped in with plans to create a new Swamp Room. Local builder Scott Verdin will buy the Swamp Room from Latour, in a deal scheduled to close this week.
The purchase does not include the real estate, but does come with the name, the signs and equipment. Verdin intends to build a new Swamp Room two blocks away at 5400 Veterans, a now-empty strip mall at the corner of Green Acres Road. He expects to open his new bar in October.
Verdin, through his company Allied Building Co., has developed large plots of commercial real estate around Metairie and Kenner. The Swamp Room plans, he said, are more personal.
“It’s just a Metairie institution. It would be a tragedy to lose it now,” Verdin said. “I don’t want to see Metairie lose all its old places.”
For generations, the Swamp Room has cultivated a clientele of local hospitality workers and others looking to unwind with some pub grub and drinks in the wee hours. By day, its cramped parking lot fills up with plus-sized work trucks and craftsman vans as regulars pour in for lunch at the bar.
As more national brands and big chains have staked out turf along Veterans, joints like the Swamp Room represent a scruffier, more local sensibility. Verdin said he aims to transplant the feel of the old bar to its new address.
The new Swamp Room will have the same design and many of the same fixtures, Verdin said, from the shape of the bar to the ranks of deep booths. But it will be about 20 percent bigger and will have more parking.
Once he reopens, he plans to add a private room for banquets and gatherings. It would be the kind of space where a softball team or an office group could get together, he said.
"It will be brand new, it will be bigger and better, but it’s still the Swamp Room," said Verdin.
Of course, the kitchen will serve its menu of bargain steaks, bar snacks and "swamp burgers," made to order with a thick patty and shredded cheddar.
Today, those swamp burgers often come via the grill work of Pablo Castillo, who has been cooking at the Swamp Room for 13 years. He plans to be one of the crew that reopens the bar down the street.
“We all love it,” Castillo said of the bar. “You have so many people you see all the time here; we all want to keep it going.”
Desiree Cappetta, a bartender who has worked at the Swamp Room off and on for almost 30 years, wants to stay on as well. A lifer in the business, Cappetta, now 62, said the key to the Swamp Room is the way patrons feel at home there.
“Sometimes people don’t want fancy,” she said.
The Swamp Room
5216 Veterans Blvd., 504-888-5242
Morning Call Coffee Stand and Bud’s Broiler, two storied names in local food, may soon each make their return to New Orleans in a new multi-us…
The food of Honduras, Colombia and the Dominican Republic hold down different corners of the Latin American culinary map.
Moving at the speed of flip-flops, we walked the third-of-a-mile from the ferry dock to the beach at Ship Island in about 10 minutes.
There are people who will look at a beautifully decorated cake and see their name written all over it, no matter what message might actually b…