It seems only fitting that a few short blocks away from the oldest Roman Catholic convent in the United States, what now claims to be the country’s oldest continuously-operated gay bar opened in 1933. It’s a comforting balance in a city where you’re likely to lose your footing once or twice.
Before its exile, the original Café Lafitte occupied Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the former headquarters of a pirate whose life of crime was pardoned for assisting the Americans in the War of 1812. It’s one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans.
While it couldn’t have been fairly termed a “gay bar” in the 1930s, it was as gay-friendly as an establishment could have been at the time. When a new landlord forced the bar owners to vacate the location, they took “Café Lafitte” and its trappings up the street, where in 1953 they reopened as Café Lafitte in Exile. The grand reopening party was a masquerade, where patrons dressed up as their favorite exiles from history, from Oscar Wilde to Dante Alighieri to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Over time, the bar’s reputation grew. Notable writers from Truman Capote to Tennessee Williams became frequent customers, and their ghosts are said to make appearances to this day. They’re not the only spirits around: An entity named Mr. Bubbly is known to pinch guests’ bottoms from time to time, though his origins are dubious at best.
Know Before You Go
The bar is open 24-7.