Robert Lee Jones was the business man that bought the modest and low-rise brick apartment building on the corner of Peniston and Tchoupitoulas Streets and transformed it into a corner barroom, giving the joint its famous name, the Rock Bottom Lounge. Maurice Hays and Frank Jones, the current owners and two good friends, bought it from Stanley Gordon a year after Hurricane Katrina. The very first black working class bar to open Uptown after Katrina, the Rock Bottom was an important place to network for jobs and socialize in the months after the storm. Maurice’s Cousin, Waldorf “Gip” Gipson, lives in the neighborhood where the bar is located, the 12th Ward, on the river side of St Charles between Napoleon and Louisiana Avenues.
The interior of Rock Bottom. Photo by Bethany Rogers.
The Rock Bottom is the only “black cultural bar still open in the neighborhood,” Gip explains, making it a very important space to the social and cultural traditions of his community. The Rock Bottom is home to a number of social clubs. The Prince of Wales Social Aid and Pleasure Club starts and ends its annual parade at the bar. The Uptown Travelers Club, a men’s group that plans out-of-town trips, and the Rock Bottom Rockettes, an all-ladies social club, meet at the bar every Tuesday night. The Black Men United and Original Four social and pleasure clubs also hold meetings at the bar. The bar hosts seafood boils on Thursday nights and parties all weekend long. Regulars at the barroom simply call the Rock Bottom “comfortable,” a place where everybody knows everybody.
Avis Haynes, schoolteacher and sister of Maurice Haynes, owner of the Rock Bottom, said, “This is your family roots. This is a family bar. Everybody from the neighborhood hangs here. Everybody comes back for the second lines. When somebody dies in the neighborhood, they all wind up right back here after the repast. If you’re born and raised around here and you move somewhere else, you always come back, always come back home.”
The brick exterior of the Rock Bottom. Photo by Bethany Rogers.
Joe Stern, member of the Prince of Wales and Rock Bottom regular, said, “After the storm, my feeling was you didn’t want the city to get the chance to feel like there wouldn’t be any more second lines. And I thought it would be good for us, the Prince of Wales, to parade, because, in the first place, the club’s relatively small and we had five people back after the storm. Since there were enough people back, and, most importantly, our basic route was intact, we thought the city really needed a parade. I know I really needed it, so we just put it together. So many people came up to me and thanked me, and the whole club. People said they just felt so normal.”