The Dew Drop Inn, at 2836 LaSalle Street, in the Faubourg Delassize section of Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, is a former hotel and nightclub that operated between 1939 and 1970, and is noted as "the most important and influential club" in the development of rhythm and blues music in the city in the post-war period. The venue primarily served the African-American population in the then heavily segregated Southern United States.
Frank G. Painia (1907–1972) established a barbershop on LaSalle Street in the late 1930s. He began selling refreshments to workers at the nearby Magnolia Housing Project, and then expanded his premises to include a bar and hotel, which opened as the Dew Drop Inn in April 1939. During World War II, Painia also started booking bands for concerts in the city, and frequently had the musicians staying at his hotel. He started putting on entertainment in the hotel lounge, before developing it further into a dancehall, which opened in 1945.
Nicknamed "the Groove Room", the Dew Drop Inn was reported in October 1945 by the Louisiana Weekly to be "New Orleans' swankiest nightclub", and began featuring visiting musicians such as Joe Turner, the Sweethearts of Rhythm, Amos Milburn, Lollypop Jones, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, Chubby Newsom, The Ravens, Big Maybelle, and Cecil Gant. The resident bandleaders were local musicians Dave Bartholomew and Edgar Blanchard, and Painia discovered and helped establish local stars including Larry Darnell, Tommy Ridgley, Earl King, Huey "Piano" Smith, and Allen Toussaint.
In November 1952, Frank Painia, together with Hollywood film actor Zachary Scott and his friends, were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace, following a complaint to the New Orleans Police Department that "Negroes and whites were being served together," which was technically illegal at the time. The charges were later dismissed, and Painia continued to challenge the constitutionality of the law, filing suit against the city just before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced its repeal. The club continued to attract star performers in the 1950s and 1960s, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Ike & Tina Turner, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, and Little Richard, who wrote a song, "Dew Drop Inn", about the venue. The club's MCs included blues singer Joseph "Mr. Google Eyes" August, and drag queen Patsy Valdalia (born Irving Ale, 1921–1982), who organised and hosted the annual New Orleans Gay Ball, held at the club every Halloween.
The club's popularity declined from the mid-1960s, after the repeal of segregation laws allowed other clubs to open, and Painia suffered from ill health. Though the hotel continued to function, the floor shows became irregular and eventually ceased. Frank Painia died from cancer in July 1972, and the restaurant and bar were leased to new occupants. The building fell into increasing disrepair, but remained in the ownership of the Painia family. It was flooded and further damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 2010, the building was named by the Louisiana Landmark Society as one of the city's most important endangered buildings, and "an iconic example of the importance of music venues to New Orleans culture." Later in 2010 the site was designated a historic landmark by the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission. A campaign to raise $3.5 million to restore the Dew Drop Inn as a nightclub-hotel-restaurant and training center was started by Painia's grandson Kenneth Jackson in 2015 with support from Harmony Neighborhood Development and the Tulane School of Architecture. After failing to gain financial support for development the property was listed for sale in 2018.
In 2021, it was reported that real estate developer Curtis Doucette Jr., with the support of Kenneth Jackson, had secured funding for a $7.8 million project to restore and develop the Dew Drop Inn. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2022. The building is currently under restoration efforts by Ryan Gootee General Contractors.
- Bird, Christiane (1994). The Jazz and Blues Lover's Guide to the U.S.. Addison Wesley. p. 24. ISBN 0-201-62648-9.
- Kunian, David (March 28, 2013). "Dew Drop Inn". Know Louisiana (Encyclopedia of Louisiana). Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
- Hannusch, Jeff (1997). "The South's Swankiest Night Spot: The Legend of the Dew Drop Inn". IkoIko.com, republished on Satchmo.com (both sites now defunct). Archived from the original on 2017-09-14. Originally published as cover story in archived issue of defunct New Orleans music magazine as:
Almost Slim [Jeff Hannusch] (March 1987). "The Dew Drop Inn". Wavelength. New Orleans (77): 22–23, 28.
- Aswell, Tom (2010). Louisiana Rocks!: The True Genesis of Rock and Roll. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing. pp. 36–41. ISBN 978-1-58980-677-1.
- Parker, Kelly (November 17, 2014). "Iconic Center City Landmark to be Resurrected". The Louisiana Weekly. Archived from the original on 2018-05-27.
- Burnett, John (August 24, 2015). "As New Orleans Recovers, Will The Dew Drop Inn Swing Again?". NPR.org. Archived from the original on 2018-05-27.
- Mariano, Allie (June 23, 2017). "The rise and fall of New Orleans' legendary Dew Drop Inn". The Times-Picayune. NOLA.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-16.
- 2010 New Orleans' Nine Committee (2010). "2010 New Orleans' Nine: New Orleans' Most Endangered Sites" (PDF). New Orleans: Louisiana Landmark Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-04-16.
- Offner, Robert (December 1, 2012). "The Dew Drop Inn: Dancing into the Past, Present and Future?". OffBeat Magazine. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
- Hernandez, Nicole (January 14, 2010). "Landmark Designation Report: The Dew Drop Inn, 2836 LaSalle Street" (PDF). New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-05-26.
The history of the Dew Drop Inn is best described in an article published by Jeff Hannusch
- Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design (2015). "The Dew Drop Inn: Renovation Project Vision Booklet" (PDF). New Orleans: Tulane School of Architecture.
- Hirsch, Jordan (May 30, 2018). "With Dew Drop Inn on the market, can its legacy be preserved?". The Times-Picayune. NOLA.com. Archived from the original on 2018-06-01.
- Todd A. Price, "A vital piece of Black music history set for rebirth", USA Today, September 23, 2021. Retrieved October 29, 2021
- "Weekly listing". National Park Service.
- Jackson, Kenneth. "The Dew Drop Inn". The Dew Drop Inn Revitalization Project.