“First of all, we don’t call THE BUILDING a bar,” says owner Christian Labat. It's an easy mistake to make with THE BUILDING’s welcoming atmosphere and appealing bar area, but the husband and wife team behind the space refer to it as an “arts venue.” After one visit it is clear that this definition is much more suitable. With a focus on local New Orleans artists, musical talents and the occasional private event, THE BUILDING is much more than a bar.
THE BUILDING officially opened in November 2015 after a decade of renovations, design and a natural disaster that forever changed New Orleans. Christian and Connie Labat obtained the space in 2001 from The Knights of Pythias; an old African American fraternal organization. After being "entrusted" with the property, the couple spent the next 4 years cleaning securing, and "building their dreams.: “[The Knights] used it for about 15 years as their meeting lodge until it, unfortunately, fell into a great state of disrepair – like many other properties along Oretha Castle Hayley Blvd,” Christian recalled. “We didn’t really begin with renovations until a few years after Katrina.” Christian and Connie Labat found inspiration for the name, THE BUILDING, from an infamous rock concert venue in New Orleans during the late 1960s through the early '80s. "The 'Warehouse was actually an old warehouse, and THE BUILDING is actually, well, you get it," said Connie.
Their organic and self-funded restoration payed off though. The Labats were able to create a comfortable and unique gallery and performance space, while also maintaining the original architecture that THE BUILDING had since its construction. This can be seen within the bar area – which feels like it came straight from the early 1900s – though the Labats added it shortly before THE BUILDING opened.
As a gallery, THE BUILDING has created a great platform for local artists to showcase their work. The paintings and sculptures that decorate the space are all from New Orleans painters, and available for sale. THE BUILDING also hosts musical acts from singers and DJs to full bands. The Labats collaborate with the artists to create a space to fit the exhibit or performance. The key to their success with collaborations is that they don’t dedicate themselves to one particular audience. They focus on artistic talent over genre or style, allowing them to offer diverse shows and events.
THE BUILDING is also available as a private event space. They’ve hosted fund raisers, private parties, and pop-ups. Christian and Connie especially enjoy these events, because they utilize the versatility of the space. The Labats work with their clients to make sure the event is enjoyable, successful and memorable. “We allow them to 'customize' their events. So it works out, and everyone is happy,” they said.
With the first floor completed, the Labats are working towards opening THE BUILDING for regular hours by late fall. “We’re thinking 4pm till 1am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Of course, we’ll still schedule events whenever requested, and the gallery will also take appointments,” Christian said. As for THE BUILDING's upper floors, the Labats have goals for those as well. “I personally would like to include a work-and-study program for young artists, and a studio as well – be it artist, rehearsal, recording, dance, etc., as long as it’s arts-related,” Christian said.
"Roadside" by Daniel Jupiter
You can visit THE BUILDING at 1427 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd on the corner of MLK Blvd, but be sure to check out their website first. They update their schedule regularly, and include private event nights. If you are interested in authentic New Orleans art from artists such as Daniel Jupiter, Mark Lacabe and Eric Alugas, you can schedule a gallery visit online.
1427 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd
New Orleans LA, 70113