A new restaurant and bar that aims to support the business community opened on 4525 Freret St. on Friday.
A combination bar, restaurant and workspace, The Business Bar was already packed on opening night when it held a happy hour for entrepreneurs.
Laughter and conversation bounced off the walls; some customers grooved in their seats to the R&B music playing overhead, while others mixed business and pleasure as they worked on their laptops while also clinking cocktails with names like “Old Fashioned Grind,” “Bloody Fresh Start” and “Break Even Expresso.”
The co-owners of the restaurant were putting in sweat equity as they rushed to keep up with the flood of customers on opening night. Jade Newman, 31, sprayed down tables and greeted customers while Jessica Robinson, 32, manned the bar.
Robinson acknowledged that the restaurant was above COVID-19 capacity limits; she said she didn’t expect such a crowd on opening night and that they were working to get people out of the restaurant.
The women, both born and bred in New Orleans, are used to working overtime and going into overdrive to support their ambitions. Both of them own multiple other businesses – Jade runs Southern Girl Property Management; Jessica slings drinks at weddings and events with JusTini Cocktails; and together they run an event venue called Space Seven. On top of that, Newman is a single mother of two and Jessica has a newborn baby.
“This is my third business, and I enjoy working,” Newman said. “I am a creative, to say the least.”
The idea behind The Business Bar is to create a space for the business professional who never stops their hustle. Robinson said she can’t go 30 minutes without pulling out her laptop, even when she’s at dinner. But she noticed that many restaurants have spotty WiFi service, and she doesn’t love the vibe at coffee shops.
“We work literally all day,” Robinson said. “If it’s not for her business, it’s my business, it’s our business together, so it takes up our whole day. In between that time, we have to eat and we have to drink and try to have some type of social life, but we still have to work.”
Newman says that they hope to bring in more resources for entrepreneurs, especially since so many people are working remotely due to the pandemic. She’s looking into getting a printer and setting up an Amazon Hub Locker where professionals can get packages delivered. She also plans to have student nights where young people can get discounts on the food and power hours where entrepreneurs speak on topics like how to start your own LLC.
The goal is to create “that perfect space where you can enjoy the music, enjoy the food, enjoy the drinks, but also do your work,” said Newman.
Outside the restaurant, customers Cecelia Marshall and Raveen Williams were willing to wait in the chilly night for a chance to try some of the glittering cocktails they had seen on Instagram.
“The scene is so nice. It’s giving me Napa vibes,” said Williams, saying that the abundant greenery and wood paneling around the bar reminded her of restaurants in California’s wine country. “It’s really beautiful,” she said.
“And it’s Black-owned – that’s another reason we came,” added Marshall. Both Marshall and Williams wanted to show their support for a business owned by two Black women.
The only other Black-owned restaurant on the Freret shopping corridor is Ice Cream 504 at 2511 Jena St., according to a list on the city’s official tourism website. The website lists 19 Black-owned restaurants in Uptown and Garden District, out of 324 restaurants total.
“To see two young, African-American women in this area, in this time, open up a successful business — why wouldn’t you want to witness that?” Williams said.
Newman said that they started working on the restaurant in November, when she found out from a real estate contact that the former site of Bar Frances was for sale.
“We just worked on it really, really hard, really fast. It just happened,” Newman said.
Robinson, who has been bartending since she was 19, has always seen owning her own bar as the ultimate goal. So she was quick to jump into the new venture.
The fact that there was a global pandemic raging did not deter the women from wanting to open up a new business.
“I consider myself to be fearless,” Newman said. Everything she does it based on faith; the two business partners both use the phrase “step out in faith” constantly.
“I cannot get caught up in what’s going on in the world,” Newman said. “I’m super optimistic. It was even more important for us to do this now, to be motivation to other people. That is definitely my purpose for being here.”
And honestly, Robinson adds with a laugh: “We survived 2020. We can’t go any more down.”
That doesn’t mean the women are ignorant of the risks involved. They know that there is plenty of good reason to fear opening a new restaurant – fear of the expense involved, fear of the pandemic, fear that a Black-owned business won’t be welcome in the neighborhood.
“I do know how we can be stereotyped, and I know how intimidating it can be. I’ve learned a lot, but that was through taking a lot of losses,” Newman said. “Because I overcame so many things, I know that it’s possible. So it’s super important for me to be able to show everybody else that it’s possible, because I know how scary it is.”
The key, she said, is to act with confidence despite all the obstacles she can foresee.
“We show up as if we belong because we do belong,” said Newman. “I feel like other girls need to know that, other women need to know that.”
Reporter Sharon Lurye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.