The Red Bar Celebrates 23 Years on Super Bowl Sunday

January 27, 2018 by Audrey Johnson

Once upon a time way back during the last century, destiny led Oliver Petit to the site of the Red Bar in the year 1990.

A cook by trade, Oli took a job at the building when it was the Bay Café, not knowing that it would become the place where legends never die. He traveled all the way from the faraway town of Fort Walton Beach - back when there were few signs of life between Destin and Grayton.

“When I got here I almost turned around,” Oli exclaimed.

Oli’s stint at the Bay Café was short lived and he moved on to be a chef nearby in the young town of Seaside. As destiny would have it, the landlord of the apartment he was renting just so happened to be the Bay Café’s landlord. When the building came available, he offered it to Oli, and the rest is history.

The year was now 1995. OJ’s glove didn’t fit. Forrest Gump won Best Picture. Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise topped the music charts. And Oli and his brother Phillipe opened the Red Bar.

Both were in their twenties, and Phillipe’s wife didn’t need any convincing to move to the beach. The Red Bar held its grand opening on Super Bowl Sunday with live music by Hubba Hubba and birthday cake at halftime.

“We just put the place together, and we opened and said we're gonna see what happens,” said Phillipe.

This coming Super Bowl marks the Red Bar’s 23rd anniversary party. And Hubba Hubba has played at every. single. one.

“They’ve played every one of them since day one,” says Oli. “They’re still rocking and we’re still rockin and I think it’s remarkable.” So do we, Oli…so do we.

Hubba Hubba’s three main members are Franco Washboard Jackson, Duke Bardwell-who played with Elvis, and Bill Garrett, all from Louisiana. Dr. D – Doug Dickerson plays from time to time, and the drummer changes depending on who’s available.

This Super Bowl Sunday, February 4th, hop over to the Red Bar for the party that’s jumpin. Dread Clampitt is playing for lunch, Hubba Hubba is playing for dinner in the back room.

“During the halftime show we break out a cake and sing happy birthday,” says Oli.

Over the years The Red Bar staff and families have grown with the Petit bros. Guys that played music together would come in and play in the living room. Phillipe worked the day shift doing the bookkeeping, while Oli worked the night shift running the kitchen.

“It works because we each do things we enjoy and are good at,” says Oli.

The original idea for the Red Bar was a black board menu that you can erase. The kitchen runs some specials, but they have pretty much the same menu as when they started. They go with what works.

“We cater to everybody. We treat the locals like they are family. The people that have worked with us for ten, fifteen, twenty years are a huge part of our success,” added Phillipe.

And FYI…Oli and Phillipe get it honest. Their father, Louis of beloved SoWal restaurant Louis Louis- was inducted into the inaugural class of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame for being one of the first proprietors to open a fine dining restaurant in Little Rock. Some of the city’s best chefs and restaurants have been offshoots of his creative venture. Louis' influence lives on in Little Rock, with the opening of Petit and Keet Bar and Grill just last year. 

“You can make the restaurant your art, if you will,” says Oli.

The days of cash or check only are gone; the Red Bar takes credit cards now!

"It's been so much better and it helps get customers in and out more efficiently," says Oli.

Anyone who's been to the Red Bar in summer knows this is a game-changer! The staff will still take your cash if you want to give it to them! Remember to tip your hostess and your bartender for a stiff drink and a quick seat. 

Happy Birthday, Red Bar! Cheers to 23 more…and counting! 


Audrey Johnson's picture

Upon realizing that life is too short not to follow her dreams, Audrey moved to the beach and became a writer. SoWal’s pristine beaches inspire her to explore further, look deeper, and do better.

Add comment