ST. AMANT — The vandalized former bar and boat launch may not look it now, but the 7-acre facility on Bayou Francois in southern Ascension Parish is the prized goal of a long search by parish leaders and outdoorsmen.
The closed bar off Paul Road, formerly known as Jimmy’s Lounge or P.J.’s Lounge, is in a sweet spot for waterborne outdoorsmen in East Ascension, officials said.
South of low-hanging bridges and along a bayou that links to all of the parish’s eastern waterways, the bar and boat launch provide water access to Lake Maurepas and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico without major vertical obstructions, backers said.
Richard Gautreaux, a parish government employee and member of the East Ascension Sportsman’s League, said he has been part of the search of just such a site for many years.
“We had a couple little public launches, but you are restricted. You can’t put a party barge in. The bridges are too low to the water,” he said.
Gautreaux said the closest similar launch points are in Livingston and St. James parishes.
Last month, the Parish Council agreed to pay $150,000 for the whole site, which is a quarter mile south of the La. 22 bridge over Bayou Francois and just northeast of the town limits of Sorrento.
Parish Recreation Director Garney Gautreau said the former owner, which land records show is Jimmy Brewer, donated the building and launch and the parish only paid for the land. Gautreau said Parish President Tommy Martinez is a longtime friend of Brewer’s and helped with the purchase.
Gautreau said appraisals the parish had done for the site, building and launch totaled $324,000 and $335,000.
“He said he wanted to give something back to the community,” Gautreau reported Brewer saying.
Parish conveyance records show Brewer actually sold the site in early 2009 to Lafraco LLC for $300,000.
In documents filed Feb. 22, Lafraco gave the site back to Brewer, plus $9,000 cash, to settle the remaining mortgage on the site of about $238,100.
A recent tour of the 3,800-square-foot metal building that used to be the lounge shows it has been hit hard by vandals, stripped of electrical lines since the bar closed several years ago.
Wasps have also found a home inside.
Wooden particle boards covering the bar’s windows even have spray-painted warnings telling vandals that there is nothing left to steal.
But Recreation Director Gautreau has big plans for the old lounge. He said the site, with more than 600 feet of bayou frontage, holds recreation potential but has also drawn interest as possibly a search-and-rescue and emergency location.
Some land clearing has already occurred around the site, where new parking is planned, and cleanup inside the old bar was expected to start this week, Gautreau said.
He said he hopes the site can provide not only a free public launch with lots of parking for cars and boats but the bar’s main room can also be a gathering space for fishing tournaments and other events.
A channel leading from the bayou to the bar’s concrete launch ramp is four to five feet deep at low tide. The launching area is likely big enough to put a 25- to 30-foot boat in the water, parish officials said.
Gautreau said parish officials are seeking funding sources to help with the renovations.