UNO Documentary: Neutral Ground Coffee House

What: Neutral Ground Coffee House

Film By: UNO student and documentarian Owen Dismukes

Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum, that results in a short documentary. Filmmaker Owen Dismukes documents Neutral Ground Coffee House, a local coffee shop and musical artist performing space. Besides its coffee, Neutral Ground is known for its open mic nights on Sundays that have been going on since 1976.

[Read the full transcript of the documentary below]

Welcome to the Neutral Grounds. This is our home away from home. I’m James Naylor and I’m one of the caretakers here at the Neutral Ground coffee house. I think we’re probably one of the longest-running open mic nights in New Orleans because it’s been open mic night every Sunday since pretty much ‘76. We let anyone play. As long as it sells coffee, you can come back and play again. There is no real typical night, it’s so eclectic because we consider ourselves primarily a secret songwriter’s venue, and there are a lot of singer-songwriters who come here to play their guitar and sing or play the piano and sing. Sometimes we’ll have full bands with a drum set and bass and jumping up and down and everything else, but a typical night just is atypical.

If you go on Instagram, you’ll find a lot of girls who post their selfies, their mirror pictures from this neutral ground bathroom. It’s good lighting.

This is our Zen Den. Kids like to hang out in here and get a little bit of privacy and hang out.

On our walls here we have different artists. We rotate it through the months. We don’t take a commission on it; they can sell it. We’re happy to help them out because we are a community place.

We’re not a non-profit, but we’re not profitable. It’s volunteer-run. We have all kinds of saints that come in here and take care of us. They love the place. It’s their community. There’s no money in the Neutral Ground. We make enough to pay our rent, and that’s about it.


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