Nostalgia | Cosimo’s Bar

This neighborhood stalwart is almost 90 years old
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Image Courtesy of Charles L. Franck / Franck-Bertacci Photographers Collection, The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1979.325.5327

Cosimo’s Bar, located at 1201 Burgundy St. in the French Quarter, is not, in fact, connected to music studio owner Cosimo Matassa. Instead, it was named after its original proprietor, Cosimo “Gus” LoBuono. Opened in 1934, the bar was more causally called Gus’s Bar until the formal opening of Cosimo’s Bar on June 23, 1951. 

Run by the Gus and his wife Lela for many years, the bar was a neighborhood favorite. In the 1950s, the welcoming space – with its chintz curtains, pine paneling and wallpaper – made customers feel like they belonged to a “special little club” where they could relax in air-conditioning, have a drink and watch the TV. 

In the 1960s, poetry nights and jazz jam sessions set the tone. Live rock and party music was a big hit in the 1980s-1990s, with local act The Iguanas playing there often; in early 1990, you could even get free lambada dance lessons at the bar. And in the mid-1990s, jazz made its return to Cosimo’s. Breaking the 30-year jazz dry spell was the English ragtime pianist Tommy Burton on April 1, 1994.  

Weekly crawfish boils also were a big draw at the bar; publicity for the boils in the mid-1990s included tying live crawfish to helium balloons and setting them adrift. When the cost of crawfish got too high, they would switch to kielbasa; unfortunately, the sausages were too heavy to float. 

Gus died in 1967, but Cosimo’s has continued on through multiple changes in ownership and is still known today as a comfortable neighborhood hangout where you can grab a bite, have a drink, cool down under the spinning wagon wheel fans and enjoy the company.


Cosimo’s in March 1953. A renovation later that year enlarged the bar, adding a cocktail lounge in the style of a Vieux Carré courtyard. Rich colors of crimson, green, gold, blue and brown in the drapes provided a contrast to the rattan furniture and wrought iron lamps and partitions.  


 

Categories: Nostalgia