The mezzanine that runs along the back wall above the main dining room was another part of the restaurant that was restored early on. During the Count’s reign, he used it as a discreet lookout. He also reserved tables there for romantic couples who preferred not being seen. The mezzanine is still a haven for lovebirds.
The Stoopie Bench
Arnaud’s old customers are largely to thank for the faithfulness of the restoration. They knew about details that could never have been discovered any other way. For example, when the Richelieu Bar was rebuilt, it was authentic right down to the inconspicuous private street entrance. But some of the old-timers noticed something was missing: the “stoopie bench,” located just inside the door and previously used by over-indulging customers for a little lie-down before they returned to the outside world. The stoopie bench was quickly retrieved and restored – along with a new cushion.
This tiny private room, big enough for just one table, got its name when Jane Casbarian commissioned acclaimed New Orleans artist George Dureau to paint a representative Bacchus, Greek god of Wine, to hang there. The room is a favorite for small dinner parties of eight people.
In the weeks following Casbarian’s acquisition of Arnaud’s and the start of restoration, locals were fascinated by the changes occurring in a favorite establishment. Knowing that months of work were ahead but also wanting to accommodate the curiosity of his friends and patrons, Casbarian came up with an ingenious idea. The Richelieu Bar was just about the only structure not requiring massive work and it had a street entrance. He had fancy skeleton keys produced and numbered, then mailed them out along with an invitation to come take a look and rehired the restaurant’s former long time bartender. From then on the Richelieu was packed daily with New Orleanians who supervised the construction process from their perches at the bar.
Renovating Arnaud’s required millions of dollars. All was going well with that investment – until the recession of the early eighties hit and interest rates skyrocketed. Archie had a brilliant idea: sell tables. Good customers or companies could, for $10,000, have a plaque placed above a table marking it as their own. They also got open accounts credited with $12,000 over three years, a private stock of wines and liquors, priority reservations and other perks. This not only brought in a good deal of interest free cash, it garnered much favorable national publicity. Although interest rates have come down, the proprietor has been known to sell a table now and then if the price is right.