The early afternoon silence pervading 12 Bar (608 Fulton St., 212-6476; www.12barnola.com) feels strange. With exposed brick walls and a massive guitar sculpture hanging low above an expansive bar, the Warehouse District loft seems meant to resonate with music and movement. According to managing partner David Toso, the venue has become a popular destination for locals, tourists and music enthusiasts since it opened in July 2010. 12 Bar is an ideal performance spot for regional and emerging artists, he says, because the separate stage area provides an easily fillable space while maintaining the ambience of a larger venue
"It was something I felt lucky about," general manager William Young says of his long time desire to manage a music club. When the Fulton Street location became available, Young, Toso and entertainment director B.J. Lehn joined forces to create 12 Bar. Toso handles the business operations, Young manages the bar, and Lehn oversees entertainment and sound specifics — though their roles are separate — all three agree the bar's unique atmosphere is an essential part of customers' experience. They took a hands-on approach to renovating the historic former coffee warehouse and have cultivated a staff of capable bartenders, some of whom were recruited from general manager positions at Young and Toso's other establishments.
"It gives them certain autonomy at the bar," Young says of the bartenders' experience. "All the feedback I've heard from customers about them is positive. They're all friends; they have fun." A weekday happy hour special of half-price well drinks and draft beers helps keep the bartenders busy.
The Warehouse District has proved an accommodating neighborhood, and Toso doesn't hesitate to rattle off names of surrounding businesses and restaurants that have offered nothing but support for 12 Bar's marketing strategies. The Brass-A-Holics play at 12 Bar every Wednesday, making it a popular after-party spot for patrons of the Young Leadership Council's Wednesday at the Square concert series. This sense of community attracted all three men to New Orleans' music and nightlife industry.
"There's a culture and a tradition here," Young says. "(It) really sucks you in."
For Bryan Anderson and bartender Craig Yeaza, high spirits and high-fives abound at 12 Bar.