The sign behind the bar says "Never Closed."
That ain't no lie, cher.
At Johnny White's Sports Bar, the weathered oak doors were flung wide open yesterday, as they have been throughout the sweaty days and crazy nights since Hurricane Katrina pummelled this magnificent, gallant and eternally buoyant city.
This was, as far as I could find, the only such establishment in the French Quarter — possibly the only establishment in all of New Orleans — still doing business. It's not business as usual, but damn near close to it. An oasis of conviviality in a metropolis that is waterlogged, without power, and officially locked down. Locked down, as in martial law imposed. Locked down, as in short-tempered cops patrolling the city, bellowing out from their cruisers: "Get the hell off the street!"
But at the decidedly downscale Johnny White's, a clutch of regulars remain defiantly perched on their stools at the tiny, knife-scarred bar, joined here by an influx of hurricane refugees who have managed to wash ashore at a saloon that sailed through the storm with all its facilities intact. "The beer's warm," shrugs one bearded, funky-smelling patron. "But have one on me."
And on a personal note, Juannie and I have run into so many New Orleans folk here in the groceries and restaurants. Juannie came up with the idea of having a gathering with fellow refugees on Thursday night so everyone can share stories and information about their neighborhoods.