Will this Downtown venue fill the rock and roll gap? A new club takes a stab at restoring Lafayette's lost tour stop glory.

Photo by Christiaan Mader
The future front entrance of The Pearl, formerly Shakers Nightclub.

The Pearl, a planned venue affiliated with New Orleans music house One Eyed Jacks, will open Downtown this spring, the third stage announced or opened in the district in the last year. It’s also the third club with New Orleans ties to target Downtown, behind The Platform at Dat Dog and the soon-coming Rock ‘N’ Bowl.

A bonafide rock and roll club, the venue will open in the former Shakers Nightclub, a spot known mostly for its DJ’d dance scene. The Pearl’s founders, a Lafayette-born sound engineer and a New Orleans-born skater, hope to crack a niche as a go-to spot for touring acts on the independent circuit. A good touchstone here would be the show calendars at places like the Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge or One Eyed Jacks itself.

Co-owner Roy Harrison, the Lafayette native of the duo, says the club can use its association with One Eyed Jacks to leg up its talent buying.

One Eyed Jacks owner Ryan Hesseling has been helping Harrison and his partner, James Lapuyade, plan and execute The Pearl’s launch.

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“This has been a major project for me,” Harrison says. “I’ve gained some gray hairs.”

Harrison says while Lafayette’s music scene is thriving, there remains a gap in attracting certain touring and out-of-town bands.

Growing up in Lafayette, Harrison used to see musicians like Greg Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan perform in town. He says Lafayette just doesn’t have the right rooms to attract that kind of talent. They’re either too big or too small.

“Grant Street used to get acts like that,” he says. “We want to bring it back.”

In the past, Harrison worked as a sound engineer for Grant Street Dancehall, The Wild Salmon and Blue Moon Saloon before moving to New Orleans about six years ago to work at One Eyed Jacks.

The Pearl is in the process of lining up acts on nationwide tours and from New Orleans, and Harrison plans to book burlesque shows as well as some local talent.

“When I release the calendar, people are going to love it,” he says.

The Pearl is located in one of Downtown’s few buildings constructed at the turn of the 19th century, according to Downtown Development Authority CEO Geoff Dyer. The 222 Jefferson St. building, which is owned by Lafayette advertising execs Larry Sides and Kathy Ashworth (who operate their company on the second floor), was built to house Attakapas Ironworks, according to Sides. “There is an old wagon wheel in the stairway we found during renovations,” Sides says. “[And] there are icons of wagon wheels on the top corners of the building.”

“It’s a good building,” Dyer says. “It’s got good bones.”

Harrison says the 6,000-square-foot space will host two configurations for events: A smaller room with a bar for more intimate acts holds about 250 people but can be opened up to hold roughly 600 people and an additional bar.

The décor will be similar to One Eyed Jacks, he says, demurring on the details.

“I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s going to be high quality,” Harrison says.

The Pearl will be a welcome addition to the Downtown area, says Dyer, noting that businesses previously operating out of the building often held irregular hours, standing dark and closed while the rest of the Downtown area was bright and alive.

“The unpredictability of the clubs that are open on certain nights of the week don’t really add positively to the nightlife,” Dyer says. “Having a good operator who is open regularly will be great.”

Shaker’s was reportedly only open on Fridays and Saturdays. It closed soon after its longtime proprietor, Jason Robino, was arrested by Lafayette city marshals for second-degree battery in May 2017.

Harrison plans to hold a soft opening at The Pearl during Festival International, with bands performing each night. The venue will be open Wednesday through Sunday beginning in May, he adds, with shows every night.

Downtown has more than a dozen spots to see live music at night, leaving some to wonder whether we’re approaching saturation.

“The Downtown bar and restaurant scene is evolving right now, so we’re going to see where it goes,” Dyer says. “Having [live] music venues coming in shows that we’re in new territory.”

Seth Dickerson

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