Been Wondering What Will Become Of The Old Luna Live? Let’s Ask Scott McInnis
By Justin Morris
Earlier this year, I told you a story that was supposed to be about the end of a local musical era. It ended up being about the growth and expansion of what is easily one of downtown’s most iconic restaurants. while the original “next step” plan for what was formerly Luna Live seemed to have fallen through, another fresh idea has blown in and landed in the 710 Ryan street location.
Enter “The Zephyr Brew House,” which first introduced itself during this year’s Chuck Fest and is awaiting its proper grand opening in the coming weeks.
Zephyr’s proprietor is not new to the Lake Area. While he’s worn many hats (and badges, as it were) over the years, Scott McInnis is ready to don the downtown business owner hat.
I’ll admit that I’ve known the guy for the better part of a decade, during my tenure booking and running shows for a local casino. “Ginny,” as many of us call him, was my armed off-duty officer for a great many of the national touring acts we brought in (Ask him about the Eddie Money show. That one’s a killer.).
However, his story starts long before his time with the Westlake PD.
“Well, I was all over the place, I guess. I started my early years in New York, but I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I moved to Westlake when I was really young, right before I started school, but I grew up here, graduated from Westlake High in 2003 and went to McNeese up until the hurricane, when I transferred to the University of North Texas.
“After I got out, I got into the military and joined the Coast Guard. I did my first tour, and I was kind of thinking of trying to go for officer. I’ll be honest with you, man. I saw The Guardian, and I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ So, that turned out to be a lot different than the movie. My first run was on a buoy tender, so I finally got where I could go do what I wanted to do and swim and save and everything, and it was just not like the movie. It’s not like that at all. It’s terrible. So, it wasn’t for me. But I lived in New England. I lived in Boston, I lived in New York. I lived in Rhode Island and I stayed in the Cape Cod area.
“I actually lived above L Street Tavern, so I’m bringing a lot of south Boston tradition. I want to do bacon. Instead of having bar nuts or chips and salsa, I want to do thick cut bacon. It’s delicious and it makes you thirsty. That’s a Boston thing. That’s an L Street Tavern thing, where they filmed Good Will Hunting.
“Anyway, after that, I moved home. I was a police officer for a while. I guess, technically six years, but I got run over in the line of duty, and I was out for a while. I had to have some surgeries and things like that, and then just kind of realized that it’s not really my thing, either. Seriously though, it was bad, man. I had to get some (spinal) fusions.
“So that (police work) was done. I’m sure I could’ve been like a dispatcher or something, but I couldn’t be out in the field anymore after an injury like that.
“So, I was still young and had to do something, right? My dad is an electrician and shot right up through the ranks, so I figured I’d try that … I worked my way up to management, became an industrial electrician, and then got a break and … got into operations. I’m still an operator, actually. My wife and I also own a nursery on Country Club Road called Seasonal Colors, so I’ve got my hands in a couple of things. But I’ve been wanting to do this (Zephyr’s) for a while.”
“This” is going to be a 41-tap driven restaurant, bar and venue, with an emphasis on the beer and venue aspects, certainly in its early days.
McInnis says that he wants the biggest beer offering in town with as much available on tap as he can fit in (from domestics to crafts and seasonals on down).
On the food front, he’s harkening back to his New York days and will be serving up handmade New York slices and pies. On the entertainment front, he’s looking to be largely special in-house event. He will offer up a broad cross-section of musical acts and comics featuring the local scene as well as national touring acts.
On the food:
“Obviously, you can’t come out the gates hot when you have got the number one restaurant in Southwest Louisiana across the street, so we’re not going to be having tuna. I don’t want to compete with anybody because we’re not here to do that. You’ve known me since I was a cop. I’m genuine. I don’t want to be anybody’s competition. I want to work together with everyone.
“So, we’re going to start off small obviously, and we’re starting with pizza. New York pizza. It just can’t be replicated. They think it’s in the water or something. So, having lived up there, we got in on these family recipes. These are going to be handmade, big New York slices and 18-inch pies.
“We’re going to go traditional, at first, but then as we grow we’ll be doing themed pizzas, like the Swamp Thing, that’ll have duck, alligator, crawfish and shrimp. We’ll also have a taco pizza that Sloppy Taco will be collaborating on. After that, we’re going to do stuffed burgers and even have a menu of things you can stuff your burger with. We’re going to do boiled crawfish on the weekends during crawfish season with Cajun and zydeco bands playing. It’ll take time to build to that, but it’s all going to just be fantastic when it gets there.”
On the venue and beer:
“I think a lot of people wanted (Luna) Live back. A lot of people were bummed out. I know obviously the beer reps were a little bummed because Live was half their sales, having the largest selection of beer on tap in the area. We want to keep that going, and we know that we’re always going to be in Luna Live’s shadow, and that’s not to say that that’s a bad thing, but we are going to be different. We want to rock and roll, too, and the best part of it — the most valuable thing — is having Dave Evans right across the street. We just work so well together.
“We’re going to do things and have collaborations between us and Luna, and Panorama that’s coming up down the road, and we’re going to do stuff with Crystals. We’re trying to make downtown a family-like thing. I mean, we’re talking about Christmas parties with white elephant gifts and stuff like that. It will be family friendly when we’re serving food during the day, but, you know, once the lights go down, we want that atmosphere where people … have a place to go … where someone cares about what people want.
“A lot of our bookings are going to come from finding out who the public wants to see. We’re going to have great music, and we’re going to have local music. I’ll never forget about Lake Charles. This is where we came from. If we have a big name — and we have already been in contact with acts like The Toadies, Chevelle, Orgy, Saving Abel — if we have a big show like that, it’s going to be opened by a local act — and I mean Lake Area local. That’s important to me and that’s going to happen.
“Also, with comedy — I’ve been talking with Brian Pitre and the Lake Charles comedy crew who want to do some shows here, and Jen Kober is already on the books for two shows on Dec. 8. We’re really going to try to do as many different cool things that we can manage and try to provide something for everybody.”
Outside of his vision for Zephyr’s, McInnis has a vision for downtown, as well. It’s one shared by several other downtown movers and shakers, many of whom have gotten behind his efforts.
In fact, it was his fraternity brother and new neighbor Dave Evans who helped fan the fires that have made Zephyr’s a reality.
“We want downtown to be cool again and, honestly, this was something that we’ve always wanted to do. I never dreamed that downtown Lake Charles would be like my breakout spot. But man, Dave Evans — you just talk with him. I came here booking a Mardi Gras venue and we start talking and Dave is so — I don’t even know — contagious, you know? He cares about the community so much.
“And we were not his only option for this place. There were, I believe, five other people that wanted to buy it … but he wanted someone that he could collaborate with that not necessarily had the same vision that he had but had a vision of getting downtown back where it needs to be.
“There’re so many things that me and Dave daily sit down and talk about. Chuck Fest is big right now. It’s very big, but I’m telling you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The plans that that man’s got for Chuck Fest are going to blow up, and we’re going to be a part of that.
“The Stutes (Brett and Amanda) from Sloppy Taco have been a huge help too, coming in to collaborate on a pizza with us. They’re just a staple. Find me someone who hasn’t heard of Sloppy Taco. You can’t. They’re just amazing genuinely great people.
“And all these people are supposed to be my competitors, right? Not at all. I realized I needed pour spouts, and John from Crystal’s just gives me bags of them, and then he invites me in and shows me all the stuff that he uses. He didn’t have to do that. He could have told me to kick rocks, so it really already feels like a family up here, and I am so lucky to have that.
“I think, in my heart of hearts, we’re going to be very successful because I am surrounding myself with the most successful and genuine people that are not out to just make the buck or stab you in the back. They’re just great people.”
McInnis is also using these newfound friendships to strike some sparks of his own. A new trivia league is in the plans to get all the hot downtown spots working together and sharing their clientele’s week to week. Not only that, but he has plans for the future, many of which would use space in that building that hasn’t been put to commercial use in decades.
“Dave and I were talking (about Chuck Fest) and I was like ‘I want something like that. Zephry’s wants something like that.’ So we are going to change the trivia game in Lake Charles forever. It’ll be Zephyr’s against Luna’s or Zephyr’s against Crystal’s or whatever, and now you’ve an atmosphere that gets somebody somewhere they may have never gone, and that’s all we wanted to do. We want to bring downtown together; we want to have that cool vibe.
“But we’ve also got bigger plans, The upstairs? That’s huge. That’s going to be a venue, rooftop dining. There’s a third floor up there. We have big, big plans. Obviously, that takes some capital, so we’re going to crawl before we walk. We’ve go to make sure that we have this down pat first.”
Lake Chuck got its first taste of Zephyr’s courtesy of Chuck Fest, which is a baptism of fire in and of itself, but certainly so being located practically right at the foot of the main stage. It was a suitable introduction though, because before McInnis knew it, people started reaching out.
“Chuck Fest was our first time to ever open the doors, and I couldn’t have even imagined. Dave lined up all these bartenders to come help, but my wife, who doesn’t need a bar card because we’re the liquor license holders, got her bar card just so everyone knew that she had done it right along with them, and her first time ever behind a bar was at Chuck Fest.
“We had some Jell-O shots we were giving out, and I was out shaking hands, kissing babies, and here she is behind the bar, just cranking it out! I was really proud of her.
“After that, we were going to be done until the grand opening. But then we got added to the Cyphacon Pub Crawl list on Friday, like, the night before the event, so we had to go get costumes and get ready and prepared for that.
“That was my first time behind a bar since college, when I worked at a martini bar in Dallas. Then Halloween had a pretty big turnout, and that was when it was hailing …
“But even on the musical front — we went with The Tugboats for our official grand opening (after seeing them at) Chuck Fest. I had heard of The Tugboats, but I never actually heard Kevin sing, and he was just amazing. Then Kevin gets up there and introduces Katie, who is one of our liquor reps. I was, literally, talking to her the day before making orders. She was so good up there. I just watched everybody, and people are going, ‘I’ve got goosebumps.’ That’s when I knew — that’s gotta be it.
“So, the grand opening was set for Dec. 14, but then we got a phone call from Brittany Pfantz, who wanted to do a CD release party. Then we got contacted by somebody saying Jen Kober was interested in booking something. So, the official grand opening is still with The Tugboats on Friday, Dec. 14, but the soft opening is going to be the weekend prior with Brittany Pfantz and The Sauce song debut and CD release party, with Band of Sinners and Bear and the Forest Friends on Friday, Dec. 7 and Jen Kober on Saturday Dec. 8, with two shows starting at 7 and 9 pm.”
And while the early attention may have launched the ship a bit quicker than planned, Captain Ginny and crew are undaunted and steadfast. They are excited at the prospects of being a part of downtown. The fact that they are already seeing a similar enthusiasm from acts and patrons alike only encourages them all the more.
“People are enthusiastic, and they are really excited to see what this place is going to be. They’re happy that they’ll have a place where they can go listen to live music where it’s not going to be $50 at the casino or to simply have a place where you can have a white elephant Christmas party. Some people don’t have office Christmas parties, and some don’t have family here that would do things like that. I would go to it.
“Now, we’re dealing with people that we would never even be around and then we’re exchanging gifts and interacting with people that you might never would have talked to or ever known. That is Zephyr’s. That’s it. It’s a little something for everybody. Everybody’s welcome at Zephyr’s.”
And that includes you! Mark your calendars now for both the soft opening weekend with Brittany Phantz, Band of Sinners, Bear and The Forest Friends, Jen Kober on Dec. 7 and 8, and the grand opening with The Tugboats on Dec. 14.
Other than that, feel free to stop in, grab a pint, meet the man behind the magic and Zephyr to Lake Charles’s downtown scene. Be sure to tell ‘em ol’ Justin sent ya.