Dec 282012

Construction is proceeding at Fat Harry’s on St. Charles Avenue. (Robert Morris,

In this photo from early November, the antique toy-grabber game that survived the fire can be seen as workers begin demolition inside Fat Harry’s. (photo via

After a fire gutted Fat Harry’s in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, many lifelong patrons wondered sadly what Carnival would be like without their 40-year-old parade-watching headquarters at the corner of Napoleon and St. Charles.

Now, if all goes according to plan, they won’t have to find out. Construction is on pace to have the bar reopened just a day or two before the first parade rolls, the contractor said this week.

Fire broke out in the bar on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 2, after it had been one of the first businesses to reopen after Isaac while much of New Orleans remained without power. Later, a security video feed revealed that blaze began in the Jägermeister machine, possibly as a result of an electrical surge, and then spread to the rest of the building, said Erik Stapper of River City Construction.

After insurance issues were settled, Stapper said his crews began work in November and have proceeded at a breakneck pace with two goals: faithfully restoring the bar’s most beloved details, and opening in time for the 2013 Mardi Gras parades. The bar will be brass, just as it was before, the floor will be back to checkerboard tile and the walls are going to be the same style of custom-finished paneling. An antique toy-grabbing game machine that Stapper estimates to be 100 years old somehow survived the fire, and still stands inside the otherwise gutted interior, waiting to be refilled with bawdy prizes.

Even the bar’s iconic painting of Jimi Hendrix will be recreated, Stapper said.

“This is the first time in the history of my career that I’ve ever seen a Jimi Hendrix poster in a set of plans,” Stapper said.

That does not mean the restoration will be without improvements, however. Stapper said plans call for the bar area to be opened up, the ceiling to be raised, and the video poker area to be moved to the back of the building. All new equipment will be installed, he said.

As the work proceeds, the city has been very cooperative with inspections, Stapper said. The current schedule calls for construction to finish January 22 or 23, just in time for the Krewe of Oshun to round the corner on the evening of Jan. 25.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to put it back at as fast a pace as is humanly possible,” Stapper said. “Fat Harry’s is going to be put back far better than what it was.”

New wood lines the walls and outlines the bar area inside Fat Harry’s on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 28. (Robert Morris,

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