A glowing "Prescriptions" sign above the bar is just one of the many objects covering the wall, shelf and ceiling space at Erin Rose Bar (811 Conti St., 523-8619; www.erinrosebar.com). It's also a symbol for the bar's reason for being: Whether in the form of a laugh, a cheap drink or good company, Erin Rose strives to provide a salve for what ails its customers.
Day or night, a friendly crowd of locals and visitors sits together in the bar's smoky atmosphere, surrounded by framed photographs, car parts autographed by drag racers, signs from beloved, departed French Quarter businesses, and other memorabilia. These relics celebrate Erin Rose's lineage and reveal a "passion for history, memories and love of the people that have been a part of the bar," says co-owner Angela Koehlar.
Erin Rose's location has been a bar since the 1950s, and the late Jim Monaghan Sr., former king of an empire of more than 30 different bars, opened Erin Rose in the early 1980s. When Monaghan died in 2001, Koehlar, then a bartender at Erin Rose, and her husband, Troy, its longtime general manager, became owners and "assumed the course of keeping the good times a rolling," Koehlar says. They've been running the Rose ever since.
The bar is known for its Bloody Marys and frozen or hot Irish coffee. Guinness, Harp and an assortment of ales are on tap. Scotch whiskeys and other liquors are lined up neatly in glowing bottles — all "at local prices," Koehlar says, and are served by longstanding, spirited bartenders who are ready to share opinions or do a shot along with their customers. "We're newcomer-friendly, treat you like family," Koehlar says.
The other fixture at the bar is the jukebox, which reflects a range of moods and eras with no shortage of New Orleans legends, modern-day rockers and jazz icons. "We have everything from Dwight Yoakam to Louis Prima; Preservation Hall jazz to Metallica and Thin Lizzy," Koehlar says. "We love to highight local artists. We enjoy great, fun music."
Conversation, drinking and sports — Saints and LSU games, of course — are the three most important operations of business at Erin Rose, and people from all walks of life contribute to lively debates. Erin Rose's proximity to Bourbon Street (it's a half-block away) might suggest a tourist trap, but the bar remains a haven for service industry workers, doctors, cops, writers, politicians, lawyers, musicians, the military and out-of-town regulars — or as Koehlar says, a great cast of characters. "The Erin Rose is about community," she says. "You never know who you're going to meet."