A Farewell to Red Star

Last week I heard the sad news that Frank McMains had made the decision to sell the building downtown that contains his bar, Red Star. He wrote customers a thoughtful letter thanking them for their patronage over the years and reminisced about his 12 years as a barman.

When Red Star opened, I was living in New York and working as a flight attendant for Delta. I found myself with a Baton Rouge layover, and a good friend invited me to a new cool bar. I secretly scoffed at the prospect but agreed to go anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to find a space I could only describe as a swanky dive for adults with jobs. Back then, downtown that was pretty much devoid of nightlife. Red Star gave workers a happy hour alternative to the Thirsty Tiger and Hound Dogs. A few years later, other bars started to populate Third Street. The Shaw Center was erected, and hotels returned to downtown.

I decided to end my expatriate days about four years ago and returned to my homeland. For me, Red Star was my only option for drinking downtown. It was a real bar. Many of the other watering holes relied on cheesy themes or scantily clad sorority girls to get customers in the door. Red Star offered an inviting space and bartenders who could actually make a proper martini. In all of my travels, I must say that Red Star most reminds me of Circle Bar in New Orleans. (And to quote Nicholas Cage: “This is high praise indeed.”)

Red Star always hosted bands on their way to and from South by Southwest in Austin. I saw Gal Holiday for the first time there and jumped around like a crazy person when Mod Dance Party came to town. The jukebox was carefully curated and could please the most eclectic of tastes. My favorite place for holding court was the back booth. It was the perfect place to gossip with friends or have an intimate conversation with a paramour.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Cherry and I would like to thank Frank for being a pioneer for downtown and for marching to a slightly different, but appealing drum.

Many of us will be at Red Star on Friday night to say our farewells and to toast an old friend who left us too soon. If the spirit moves you, join in. Put one last dollar in the jukebox.

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