Mo Crane operates his Metairie lounge, Mo's Chalet, (3201 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 780-2961; www.moschalet.com) on a very simple philosophy: give the people what they want.
According to Crane, what they want is a comfortable place they can go no matter the hour, reasonable drink prices regardless of the event or what's happening around the city, cover-free live music most nights, special promotions and even eggs Benedict with a mimosa at 6 a.m. for only $5. To cover the bases of his diverse clientele, which he says ranges in age from "30 to 100," he's created a 24-hour gathering spot that provides a range of atmospheres from intimate to casual and a variety of diversions depending on the time and the day. Perhaps the secret is keeping things a little off kilter or at least out of the ordinary.
Happy hour, for instance is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Monday is karaoke night, Tuesday night features $1 longneck beers and the rest of the week's nightly entertainment schedule is taken up by live bands. On Friday and Saturday, two bands are scheduled, one playing on a large stage from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., with another taking a smaller stage for a 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. set. There's rarely a cover charge -- the only one Crane can remember is when music legend Sam Butera played the club -- but you must buy a drink to listen to the music.
"You don't ever want to rip anyone off," Crane says, referring both to charging a cover and inflating drink prices for special events. "We want to keep them as customers. It's not really a neighborhood bar. We get people of all kinds and people from all over, even from out of state."
They come to hear music, dance, enjoy the new businessman's lunch that features $1 martinis every weekday, dine on a $9 filet mignon or visit with Crane, whose knowledge of the city and past life adventures of his own are always diverting. The 66-year-old, who runs five miles a day and works out regularly, wasn't always a bar owner. His past professions include travel agent, exotic hunting guide, musician (he plays guitar and has an affinity for country music) and radio sales manager. He added bar owner after he and his wife, Pat, retired from their separate careers. "I retired from my business and my wife retired from Delta Airlines, and we went brain dead and bought a bar."
The Cranes first operated The Chalet with a partner, who bowed out of plans to rebuild after the lounge was destroyed by fire in 1996. Later that same year, Crane's wife died unexpectedly. He continued his work on the bar and opened as Mo's Chalet four years ago. To honor her dedication for helping children, Mo's Chalet sponsors a golf tournament in her memory each year with proceeds benefiting one of her favorite charities, Camp Challenger, a Northshore summer camp for youthful cancer patients.
Customers are drawn to Mo's Chalet because of its personality, which is all Mo Crane. He drew up the plans, which were translated by an architect, chose the dark green wall color and even decorated the walls with symbols of mementos of the things he loves: New Orleans, music, skiing and hunting. Many of the trophies and mementos that decorate the walls are from Crane's private collection. Other things, like medieval shields and flags that represent all the countries that participate in the Olympics, were added for impact. One of the most impressive visual aspects of the bar is a wall behind the stage that's a huge, colorful three-dimensional mural of musicians by artist Chris Guarisco. Visitors can choose to socialize with the always-friendly staff at the large four-sided square bar that seats dozens or sit in the more private ski corner with a private table and seating for several. The dance floor is roomy and also has served as a setting for private parties and at least one wedding.
"One reason this place does really well is that my dad is a really outgoing person ... and he's a really good listener," says Kendall Pearse, Crane's daughter and manager of the lounge. "He knows everybody's name, and the stories he tells -- he knows so much history of New Orleans. This place is his personality all over. It's everything he's ever accomplished in his life. It's all his touch."
- Bar owner Mo Crane and daughter/manager Kendall Pearse 'give the people what they want' 24 hours a day at Mo's Chalet in Metairie.