Wakefield couple converts studio into homage to relative’s New Orleans bar

— For several years, Steve and Lynn Gaudet looked for a place to retire that was scenic, historic, rural and close to their three sons.

Ten miles north of St. Francisville, they found just what they wanted — a traditional home with a separate studio.

“When we saw the studio, I knew it either had to be a workshop or a playhouse,” says Steve Gaudet. “And the playhouse won out.”

Now it’s Tony’s Bar. But it’s not the first Tony’s Bar.

Gaudet’s grandfather, the late Anthony Lagattuta, owned and operated Tony’s Bar in New Orleans at the corner of Loyola and Toledano streets beginning in the mid 1930s.

“The bar is not a replica, but a tribute to the original bar,” Steve Gaudet says.

When he told a cousin about it, the cousin offered some old red oak pews from the Chapel of the Academy of the Sacred Heart on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans.

To accommodate the pews, Steve Gaudet tore out a wall and opened up a small kitchen on one end of the studio. In that space, he used the pews to make the actual bar, which he backed with mirrors and shelves to hold his bottles of spirits and glasses.

Since then, the studio-turned-playhouse-turned bar has taken on another designation.

When the couple moved into their home in 2007, they had no grandchildren. Now there’s five — three boys and two girls.

To provide extra sleeping space for their growing family, the Gaudets added a bedroom to the back of Tony’s Bar. With wood posts from his other grandfather’s house on the River Road in Hahnville, Gaudet made a queen-sized bunk bed for the new bedroom.

“Every summer, we have Camp Gaudet for the grandchildren,” says Lynn Gaudet.

The Gaudets also added a bathroom with an outside entrance for grandchildren, who like to play outside, and built a deck off the bedroom to give a view of the eight acres of wooded property.

When friends and family members heard what Steve Gaudet was doing, they began offering barroom memorabilia and advertising items.

Now the walls overflow with these items as well as a huge collection of family photos.

There are photos from the original Tony’s, as well as pictures and souvenirs from a grocery story Steve Gaudet’s grandmother operated in the same building as the bar.

There’s a banner he believes came from the one of the first Super Bowls, the saw Anthony Lagattuta used to cut meat in the family grocery store, hunting trophies, photos of the Gaudets’ sons and their activities, a piece of a branch that went through the roof during Hurricane Gustav and lots of New Orleans items.

At the center of the barroom is a large pool table from Steve Gaudet’s parents’ house.

“We’re loaded down with pictures and memorabilia,” says Steve Gaudet, who retired in 2007 after 28 years with Shell.

Lynn Gaudet calls Tony’s a work in progress, as they now try to figure out how to find space on the barroom’s vaulted ceiling for their ever-growing collection.“This project never ends,” Steve Gaudet says. “But it will take whatever shape it takes.”