Johnny White’s Sports Bar: The Tiny Joint that Never Closed—Until It Did. Marita Woywod Crandle. The History Press, 2019. 144 pages.
For 23 years, Johnny White’s Sports Bar reigned as Bourbon Street’s premiere dive bar for locals. Located at the corner of Orleans and Bourbon, the small bar was an island for Quarter Rats in the midst of an unceasing flow of tourists. It was visitor friendly for sure, but make no mistake, this bar was one of very few on Bourbon Street that a group of locals called home. It’s closure in 2012 sent shock waves through the Quarter and was properly mourned with a jazz funeral.
Johnny White’s Sports Bar: The Tiny Joint that Never Closed—Until It Did gives readers an inside look at what it was like to work at the bar. Former bartender Marita W. Crandle has written a memoir of her time working at the legendary watering hole. But more than just memories, Crandle provides a history of the bar as well.
She writes: “Everyone who frequented Johnny White’s has a story of their own, and if they have one, usually they have at least twenty. When I was new to the bar, I loved to sit around with the old-time regulars and listen to their stories. I was always envious that I had missed so much of what had transpired in the French Quarter before I even knew it existed.”
Crandle also dishes up stories from the original Johnny White’s Bar, which opened at 733 St. Peter Street in 1969. White, a local teacher and coach, had a larger than life personality and the bar was an instant hit with locals. Crandle quotes former bartender Byron Penn who observes, “The bar could be completely empty on any given day. If Johnny White came down, people walking by would see him sitting there, and before you knew it, the bar would be full.”
After his second divorce, White lived above the bar for a while. He died in 1993 and left the bar to his daughters.
White eventually bought a building at the corner of Bourbon and Orleans and in 1989 leased it to three friends—J.D. Landrum, Tom Hill, and Terry France—who opened a small bar. With Johnny White’s permission, they called it Johnny White’s Sports Bar. The Johnny White’s franchise would expand to include a bar and grill as well as Johnny White’s Hole in the Wall. This book is a must-read for Quarterites, dive bar aficionados, and anyone who has ever had a drink at Johnny White’s.
Originally from Germany, Crandle enjoyed a successful marketing career in California before moving to New Orleans. A resident of the French Quarter, she owns the Boutique de Vampyre, the Vampire Café, and Potions (a vampire speakeasy). She is also the author of New Orleans Vampires: History and Legend and a holiday children’s book, Rufus, the Yuletide Bat.