When owner Rhett Briggs opened Publiq House (4528 Freret St., 504-826-9912; www.publiqhouse.com) a year ago, he aimed to bring a mid-sized music venue to Freret Street's blossoming food and entertainment scene.
"I thought that in Uptown there was a need for another Tipitina's-size venue," Briggs says. "Right now all the venues max out at 150-200 [people]. ... Then you have that big leap up to House of Blues and Tipitina's. Publiq House ... fits around 450 [people]. The goal is for this place to become an exclusive music venue."
Briggs says he's attracting noteworthy bands to the venue while paying close attention to the bar's offerings. Maintaining the balance between the music and the bar has proved challenging. "I went more into a music venue than I anticipated," he says. "I didn't want my place to be somewhere you only go to see a show. You can also come for a beer. It's hard operationally, but we've made it work."
Publiq House has 22 beers on tap and 99 in bottles, as well as specialty cocktails. The strawberry basil margarita is the most popular drink. Mason jars used as glasses add to its signature look, a choice that came from Briggs' practice of reusing salsa jars at home. A vintage truck disguises the sound booth, which adds to the venue's unassuming vibe.
In February, Briggs signed with Huka Entertainment, a locally managed production company that works with Briggs to book bands. The current house band, Brass-A-Holics, performs Thursdays at 9 p.m. Tab Benoit and Dumpstaphunk recently performed. Headliners during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival include Marco Benevento, Tryptophunk and Robert Walter's 20th Congress. There's also a trivia night every Tuesday at 7 p.m., and nightly happy hours.
Publiq House will participate in the fourth annual Freret Street Festival Saturday, April 5. Being part of the neighborhood is important to Briggs. "One thing I love about Freret is that everyone has their own niche and they are really good at it," he says.