Along the staircase at Saints and Sinners (627 Bourbon St., 504-528-9307; www.saintsandsinnersnola.com), dozens of trompe l'oeil eyes peep through keyholes printed on the wallpaper. The watchful walkway is part of the bar's unique design, inspired by owner Keith Kurtz's fascination with Storyville.
"I was reading a book about Storyville, and I was like, no way, the madams used to run the town," Kurtz says. "I just thought it was neat, and thought [there would] be a cool way to incorporate it into a theme ... historical, but kind of sexy, too."
For now, most know Saints and Sinners for its status as a celebrity-helmed French Quarter outpost. (Kurtz founded the bar with longtime friend Channing Tatum, the beefcake actor featured in hits like Magic Mike.) The pair fell in love with New Orleans during a film shoot, but didn't feel that the Bourbon Street bar scene catered well to the women in their lives. They designed Saints and Sinners as what Kurtz calls a "safe haven" in response.
The bar stands out for its seductive decor, which nods to early 20th-century New Orleans. The building's external structure, a former single-family home with a broad wooden deck and plenty of balcony space, looks unique on the neon-paneled Bourbon drag. Inside, interior designer Scott Carpenter covered the walls with portraits of Storyville madams and cabernet-red wallpaper, using bronzed chandeliers and other historically appropriate fixtures to create an ambience of intrigue and allure.
Kurtz, a former Marine and film production professional, is new to the hospitality business. At Saints and Sinners, he promotes a combination of relaxation (what he calls "lounging out") and fun for his patrons. Since the bar's opening late last fall, it has offered a smattering of classic New Orleans fare alongside provocatively named premium cocktails (e.g., "Silk Panties" and "Sex on the Balcony"). During the day, wine specials and seasonal crawfish boils draw lazy-afternoon crowds to the front porch, and at night, the tables upstairs disappear to make room for live music and DJs.
Due to the Tatum connection and decadent atmosphere, the bar hosts a lot of bachelorette parties. Kurtz has planned a new martini menu, party packages and other events for this clientele.
"[In the fall], we're also going to be doing male burlesque. It isn't stripping, it's 1920s male burlesque: we're talking handlebar moustaches, canes, top hats ... more funny, more entertaining," he says.
Such antics have helped them settle in as a Bourbon Street fixture.
"A year ago, nobody knew [this building] even existed, and now everybody does," Kurtz says. "It's almost like every night's a festival; there's always something to do."