Operators of St. Rose tavern face eviction

A landmark bar and restaurant in St. Rose that for decades has been a favorite stop for locals in search of a cold draft and roast beef po-boy may soon shut its doors, now that the owner of the building has served an eviction notice on the business.

The kitschy St. Rose Tavern, with its deep porch and vintage Coca-Cola signs, has beckoned hungry patrons for almost a century.

Patsy Elfer’s great-grandfather and great-uncle built the tavern as a hotel in 1922. Her parents refashioned it into a bar and restaurant in the 1950s, and the 60-year-old Elfer now runs the business with her three daughters, Elizabeth, Jessica and Amanda. All four live in the adjacent 10-room hotel, though it hasn’t rented rooms in decades.

“To us, it’s just not fair,” said Elizabeth Elfer, 31. “We should have the opportunity to at least buy something that’s been part of our family for 91 years. We would like the chance to prove that we deserve to keep it in our family, and we want to own it.”

They may not get the chance. Family members said they were given an eviction notice Nov. 8 telling them that their lease would be terminated Jan. 31.

Patsy Elfer’s father’s family sold the property in 1985 for $207,500 to Thomas Coleman, head of International-Matex Tank Terminals, which operates a bulk liquid storage facility just up River Road.

Standing near the bar where she took her first steps as an infant, Elfer described a mostly amicable relationship with Coleman, from whom she has rented the building for nearly three decades. The price stayed at about $400 a month for years, but eventually crept up to $825.

Amanda Elfer, 23, said Coleman went to the restaurant in person to deliver the news.

“He told my mom she had two options: She could either walk out or work with him,” she said. “But working with him, we don’t know where we stand. It could be anything. He said he would take care of us, though, and that we would make money, but we have to have faith in him, that he’ll help us out.”

Coleman did not respond to a request for comment. He is the father of Dathel Georges, who owns The Advocate along with her husband, John.

As word spread across the community and in social media about the eviction notice, the restaurant has been flooded with regulars and passersby who were curious about the aging roadhouse. An online petition seeking to save the restaurant had close to 1,000 signatures by Friday.

Even St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has gotten involved by trying to arrange a meeting Friday with both parties.

“I don’t know where it’s headed,” he said Thursday. “I was just asked by the Elfer family to intervene. This is really a civil matter, but I have the greatest respect for the Colemans and the Elfers.”

In an interview, St. Pierre reminisced about stopping by the tavern after Destrehan High School football games.

“It’s been there forever, and it’s had great food,” he said. “It’s kind of a disappointment to see that it’s probably going to be under new management.”

These days, the tavern draws a loyal base of customers from within St. Rose, many of them workers heading home from nearby petrochemical plants.

Over the decades, the restaurant has served as a backdrop for television commercials and music videos, including Emmylou Harris’ “Crescent City” video, where she’s seen playing guitar outside the building, surrounded by people dancing, clapping and pouring out pots of boiled crawfish.

It’s got a 12-stool bar and about as many tables, with a pool table, a jukebox and a couple of flat-screen televisions. Rusty beer cans and a chalkboard menu — listing chicken and sausage gumbo and jambalaya — are lined up behind the bar, with various memorabilia and old photographs nailed to the walls.

Sipping on a Miller High Life at the bar one recent afternoon, Richard Thomsen said he was optimistic the tavern would continue in its current form.

“I’m just praying that (Coleman) changes his mind or has a change of heart,” said Thomsen, who works at the nearby Dow Chemical plant in Norco. “Why mess with history?”

There are bars closer to Thomsen’s home in Destrehan, but he appreciates the tavern’s low-key atmosphere.

“It’s just a real comfortable place to be,” he said.