Wherever there is a Mardi Gras parade, a shower of beads and a supply of libations, there is a party. So now vast stretches of our major streets become linear party spots, extending for miles along neutral grounds and sidewalks. But what happens when the final float has rolled for the night but the appetite for more good times still pulses? As the final fire engine chugs by, signaling the end of the procession, some start into Chapter 2 of the evening, perhaps hitting a favorite bar near the route, heading to a music club or just making for the come-what-may of the French Quarter. But by the time Chapter 3 of the night has come around, many of the most resilient revelers have turned up at F & M Patio Bar, the Tchoupitoulas Street watering hole with a well-earned reputation for rocking until dawn.
Hardly anyone seems to start the night at F & M’s, and for the first few hours of the evening, a sense of calm before the storm pervades the place. After midnight, though, things start to light up.
Limousines disgorge tuxedo- and gown-clad parties from the balls. Service staff from restaurants and other bars across town arrive once their own shifts end. College students, older people rekindling memories of recent youth and those suddenly infused with college-age energy all mix it up. Soon, the entire front barroom becomes a dance floor as the jukebox pumps out party music. In the patio area, late-night patrons whose last meal may have been many hours ago rip into hamburgers and waffle-cut cheese fries served in gooey mounds as large as footballs.
But F & M’s youthful clientele belies its long history. The squat, tattered red-painted building was first opened as a bar in 1905 by the now-long-defunct New Orleans Brewing Co. Later, the Jackson Brewing Co. operated it as a company-owned bar. Sometime in the 1930s it became Fump & Manny’s, now abbreviated as F & M. Manny was Manny Guillot, founder of Manny’s Sanitary Supplies, a janitorial supply company located a few blocks upriver. Fump was the nickname of his business partner, John Flynn.
The bar’s current reputation as an after-party spot owes much to the previous owner’s janitorial supply warehouse across Tchoupitoulas Street. Starting in the late 1950s, Manny’s rented out this space for high school dances, with local R&B pioneers such as Deacon John often performing. After the show, the crowd crossed the street to the bar at F & M, and the night rolled on. Around-the-clock stevedore shifts at the nearby docks and warehouses also meant a steady stream of customers in the wee hours. For many years, the bar even operated a walk-up window for beers to go, though that feature, like the dance hall and multitudes of dockworkers, is a thing of the past.
People who remember those days sometimes stop by to reminisce, and the bar’s large patio areas and second-floor barroom are popular venues for class reunions and other private parties earlier in the evening. But F & M is primarily the stomping grounds of night owl patrons in their 20s and early 30s. A few of the rambling old building’s darker corners are known as “make-out rooms,” including one helpfully equipped with a bench seat torn from a car. A coin-operated photo booth records some novel compositions of faces, limbs and assorted other body parts as friends cram in behind the curtain. And then there’s F & M’s famous pool table, which, at the stroke of 2 a.m., is covered with a sheet of battered plywood and officially converted to a raised dance floor.
Dancing on the pool table at F & M’s is a phenomenon going back more than 20 years, and it’s one rooted in no less a font of tradition than Carnival royalty. The story goes that at the end of Mardi Gras 1982, after completing their final ceremonial duties, the queens and maids from two old-line krewes directed their limousines to F & M’s, where they wound up dancing on the pool table to jukebox music. A tradition was born.
A house rule initially allowed only ladies in ball gowns to dance on the table. That was relaxed over time, however, and now couples in all states of attire dance above the F & M crowd. It seems the only requirement these days is enough energy to keep shaking your stuff so late into the night.
F & M Patio Bar
4841 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 895-6784