Which Louisiana city can claim home to the 2nd longest running gay bar in the United States? Well pour me a stiff one, it’s little old Shreveport! The Korner Lounge is also our city’s oldest continuously running bar – if not business – having been in operation under the same name since the 1933 end of prohibition, and it is currently the only bar within Shreveport Common.
The Korner Lounge has seen its fair share of Shreveport history; it was once the place to meet servicemen shipping off to World War II.
Owner Jody Booth took the reins in 2006, and considers his patrons family. He has spent the better part of a decade moving the establishment to a new era. Jody recounts the first time he walked into the Korner in the early 1970s. Given his profound affection for the venue today, I assume it must have been love at first sight? “No! I turned right around and walked out!” Apparently there weren’t too many other 22 year olds in there those days, but now the studio apartment-sized space is filled with round-the-clock licensed music videos and nightly events that keep the fun alive for young and old. Komfortable Karaoke ias every Thursday and Saturday and in true Shreveport style, you don’t even have to stand up for it; the wireless mic is handed to you. I am assured that one can even belt out “Good Vibrations” or “Ring of Fire” from the toilet.
Anyone that has sat at that bar will know the Korner’s iconic Bevador, an impressive, ancient fridge in the shape of a milk bottle, presiding over the Lounge with a soft mechanical grumble that will outlast us all. Possibly immortal, very few still operate anywhere in the world with original compressors, but its tale of origin is perhaps even more remarkable. It was 1953, and the proprietors were sisters Ina and Etta. One of their husbands came barreling into the bar one day exclaiming that there had been a derailment at the end of Louisiana Street and a Bevador had fallen off the train. Barely dented, they rolled that thing right up into the bar and it’s been plugged in and working ever since!
Clearly good humored, Jody is also a very dedicated owner, and has seen the streetscape change a great deal during his tenure. In a distinct segment of downtown that’s seen neglect since the closing of the Louisiana Street rail crossing, there’s a lot that needs to happen for it to bounce back. A big part of that will be the redevelopment of the iconic Arlington Hotel across the road, recently acquired by the City, and being packaged for development into a boutique hotel or something similar. As seen repeatedly throughout Shreveport Common, confidence grows from smaller actions like clean-up days to major multi-million dollar building restorations, incentivizing property owners to invest in their own buildings and projects. Late last year, the former Aamco Transmissions (katty Korner) was privately purchased and once things get really cracking at Louisiana/Cotton, renovation plans are ready to go for the Korner, including the addition of an outdoor patio and reinstating the glass storefront windows.
Last year, following the death of his sister, Jody became the full time caregiver for his intellectually disabled brother, who is at work with him when I visit in the afternoon. It’s difficult to be the fully-charged business owner at the same time and ultimately, Jody’s long term plan for the Korner is to find someone to pass the baton to, someone who understands what the Korner means and who will keep nurturing that identity. Even so, Jody says it’s been a fulfilling chapter that will always stay with him: “I’ve made so many friends from owning the bar, I wouldn’t trade that experience for a million dollars.”