Times have changed, but St. Rose Tavern retains charm of yesteryear

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 1998

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / August 19, 1998

ST. ROSE – Along River Road, between Crespo and Fourth streets, stands aquiet, little tavern where the regulars date back three generations. Builtin 1922 to accommodate dock workers and travelers, St. Rose Tavernretains much of its home-grown charm.

This fact has not gone overlooked. In fact, it’s played host to a fewcelebrities, gaining a reputation which goes far beyond St. Charles Parish.Once the site of the old Red Dog Saloon, which burned down some 80-odd years ago, the St. Rose Hotel (as it began life) was built by Charles Elfer,once the president of St. Rose Bank.When you walk in the front door you stand in what was once a hallway with a door on each side and one straight ahead. To the left was (and is)the bar. Behind the bar nowadays is often found the present operator, PatElfer, great-granddaughter of the Tavern’s founder, and her boyfriend, Rick Cubicke.

Behind the bar also are hundreds of collectable bottles and the old kitchen where Pat’s mother, Julia, once ruled.

To the right are tables where the perpetual card games took place and a section where a small barber shop once stood. A curious, three-sidedfireplace is also found there, along with the tavern’s original piano.

Straight ahead is a door leading back outside, to the base of a U-shaped gallery. On either side are five doorways, leading to what once where the10 one-room hotel rooms, each of which had a bed and wash basin but no indoor plumbing.

The gallery area and the space between the facing hotel rooms are also the scene of the Emmylou Harris music video for “Crescent City,” which featured many French Quarter characters and some of Elfer’s family.

Return now to the bar. In the front corner is Elfer’s office, once a smalldining room. In one corner is a old-fashioned, wooden telephone booth,still with a working phone.

When the telephone company wanted to remove it years ago and replace it with a much more modern one, Elfer’s mother declared it would go only after she was gone.

She died in 1985. The booth is still there.When Airline Highway was built in the 1930s, some construction supervisors stayed at the St. Rose Hotel, taking advantage of the food,drink and entertainment. At the time, the hotel hosted local dances withlive music and there are still some old-time St. Rose residents who kickedup their heels there or even had their wedding receptions there.

The hotel became the tavern in later years. It passed first to Pat’sgrandfather, Eugene Henry Elfer Sr., and to her father, Eugene Jr., who tookit over in 1950.

Eugene Jr. and his wife, Julia Louise, had married in 1942. They had theironly child, Patricia, in 1953.

Troubled with her hips since early childhood, Pat attended local schools until one day an accident injured her and the accident was not immediately reported to her parents.

As quickly as possible, she was moved to John Curtis Christian School and, from the age of 16, worked in the tavern as a cook after her father died in 1969, helping her mother.

In 1984, with business lean, Tommy Curtis of International Matex Marine Terminals bought the company and kept Pat Elfer on to run the tavern. Thefollowing year, her mother died.

Ever since, as Pat’s family grew with the addition of twin daughters Jessica and Elizabeth and younger daughter Amanda, so did the business and its name recognition. Two movies have shot scenes here, and BruceSpringsteen dropped by one evening to shoot pool and sign autographs.

Elfer has also taken a leadership role in the St. Rose community, inspiringothers to take pride in the area through “Swamp Eyes,” an organization she created in February 1997 to clean up St. Rose Avenue.The organization is also working to clean up St. Charles Parish, inspirestricter enforcement of anti-littering and dumping laws and encourage recycling.

St. Rose Tavern has been a landmark of the East Bank of St. Charles Parishfor many years and, with the coming generation, it may well be a landmark for many years yet to come.

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