When word got out that Carrollton Station (8140 Willow St., 504-865-9190; www.carrolltonstation.com) would be up for sale, former employees Michael and Colleen Miller left Steamboat Springs, Colo. and returned to New Orleans to purchase the bar and help restore it to its former glory. "We are doing everything we can to make some positive changes while still retaining the history that makes it a special place," owner-operator Michael Miller says.
Miller purchased the bar in January, and in February, Carrollton Station became smoke-free. Miller says it's the bar's biggest change yet. He says it is now cleaner, and the backyard attracts many patrons. "After we eliminated smoking inside the building, lots of people found out about the backyard," Miller says. "The previous owner made the back yard 95 percent of what it is now, but complained that he could never get anyone to go back there."
Paying close attention to Oak Street's blossoming retail and dining scene, Miller — who lives only a block away — changed some of the bar's alcohol-related aspects as well. "We changed the drink prices slightly to reflect what a neighborhood bar should charge and got rid of the stupid liquor-control pour spouts and replaced them with free-flowing pour spouts," Miller says. "A few bartenders left when we took over, so there are some new faces behind the bar."
A new gadget is the Shot-Ski, a ski adorned with shot glasses so friends can take shots together. One thing the Millers didn't change, however, was the 1904 Brunswick bar that the original owner of Carrollton Station restored and installed. The kitchen hasn't reopened, so patrons are allowed to bring food to the bar, an easy thing to do thanks to the 16 restaurants within three blocks of Carrollton Station's door.
The bar's weekly events — Tuesday acoustic open-mic, Wednesday stand-up open-mic, Thursday live pub trivia and Friday and Saturday live music — have always been big hits. Zach Galifianakis, Susan Cowsill, Tab Benoit, Paul Sanchez and Counting Crows all have graced the Carrollton Station stage. "We tried to keep all of the special events going that have been a part of the bar in the past," Miller says.
The bar also hosts seasonal events like a Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest, Easter egg toss and the Jerkoff, a jerked chicken cook-off.
"We usually like to have events that involve lots of eating and drinking, because it makes it more fun to be at work," Miller says.